Using Music to Treat Aphasia

The San Francisco Chronicle recently had an interesting article about Mindy Rowland using music to find her way back from aphasia. A ski accident four years ago left her with a concussion and aphasia. She couldn’t find words anymore, and she had to leave her job because communication was too difficult. She was in speech therapy and seeing doctors when she had a breakthrough, courtesy of Elton John.

Speaking Through Music

Her husband left on music and came home to find “Mindy singing along to Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer.’ At this point, Mindy could hardly string words together, but for some reason she could sing.” It’s something we’ve spoken about before with Randy Travis and the movie Still Sophie.

The article states:

Music therapy has been used to treat people with traumatic brain injuries in many cases, for people who suffer strokes or car crashes or other situations that cause trauma to the brain … Once Mindy started singing, she saw similar strides. Stew said her speaking is 10 times better now than it was before she started singing.

Mindy performed at Folk Fest, singing the songs “seamlessly, never needing to pause to remember a line.” It’s a place where the words still come fluidly.

Why Music Works

There has been plenty of research done in using music to treat aphasia. One theory is that because music crosses the hemispheres of the brain, it creates new neural pathways for language. In addition, music is ripe with repetition and patterns, two things that aid memory.

Is music therapy right for you? There are plenty of ways to formally and informally engage with music. Some clinics may offer melodic intonation therapy (MIT) or neurologic music therapy (NMT). You will need to inquire with individual local practices if they provide music therapy.

But while you’re waiting, try throwing on familiar albums and seeing if you connect with music in the same way. We hope that melodies help you find words again.

Do you find it easier to sing than speak?

Image: Adrian Korte via Unsplash



  • Gerry Meechan
    June 28, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Can’t speak 😡

  • John Griffiths
    July 1, 2018 at 10:46 am

    I had my stroke 16 years ago and I couldn’t speak at all, unable to express what I wanted to say back then and I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write either.
    Eventually it came back gradually year by year. Today my reading is good, my writing is not bad with a Dictionary and my speech is improving every year that’s because the music is back of my brain. I enjoy singing and I’m a member for 2 choirs right now

  • Anonymous
    July 31, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Can music help people wth Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia

  • Kathleen M Lynch
    July 31, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Can music help people with PPA ?

  • Mayrbeth
    July 31, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Thank you so much for this!!! We music therapists really appreciate the professional alliance with our SLP colleagues. 🙂 I see this day after day…the power of rhythm, beat, and melody to help our patients overcome communication obstacles. The fact that music is processed on both sides of the brain does give our patients with aphasia a fighting chance to regain their skills.

  • Anne
    July 31, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Can music help with Primary Progressive Aphasia?

  • Anonymous
    July 31, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    My husband cannot talk but sings like a bird!

  • Melinda Burgard
    July 31, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Yes! A trained certified Music Therapist can assist with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. It will not take away the disease but it will aid with emotional expression as well as short term lucidity

  • M-E Jinno
    July 31, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    DH had sepsis from a biopsy 7 years ago. Had speech therapy and OT 2 years ago. He was then diagnosed as progressive Expressive aphasia. Before this, He was told it was a coincidence, it was just Alzheimers. It is clear that he thinks even though he is declining in some areas. I think some of decline is due to neglect on the medical side. Locally they refused to replace his hip as he had aphasia. We got his hip re-place elsewhere and he does fine. Locally Dr refused to treat heart issue. We went elsewhere and he got a stent. No more chest pain. I have been playing classical as that was his favorite before. I noticed when faster music came on he started to move around to it ( sort of dancing). Any Suggestions as how to maintain high Quality life style for one who was brilliant and a Minister?

  • Martina Barrows
    August 1, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Yes! Music! My son suffered a TBI 23 years ago. He has suffered with global aphasia ever since and yet, he has forced us to understand him through music. In the music and lyrics he remembers, he tries so hard to express his feelings about life and his daily struggles with with aphasia. We remember the old songs and the lyrics, too. Communication.

  • wali
    August 2, 2018 at 4:39 am

    i hare aphasis

  • Dawn
    August 2, 2018 at 7:39 am

    This is great , our son suffered a severe brain injury which has left him with aphasia. He loves music , we are going to look into this for him .

  • Victoria
    August 4, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks for presenting this information! One note for people who may consider music therapy as treatment – be sure to seek out the support of a music therapist who is Board Certified, of Accredited (MTA or MTBC). This means the person is properly trained and has completed an ethics review and has access to liability insurance and resources to support best practice . They are supported by a national body who offers continuing education, standards of practice, and access to certified training programs. Music is good for so many aspects of our lives, but when seeking therapeutic support, make sure you are seeking someone with professional standards and experience.

  • Jill Wright
    October 22, 2018 at 9:46 am

    I’m find the easier than sing!! 🙏

  • Anonymous
    October 27, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    I am not deaf but I do not hear the same way.

  • Margaret Bitz
    February 1, 2020 at 10:40 am

    I have a sister who has PPA. She can not say the words to a song as she sings, but she uses a syllable like tat, tat, tat, to sing a song. She gets the whole song singing like this by herself. She was a good singer and loved singing. She can not do this when other people try singing along. That is too much clutter for her, Her voice is still great.

We'd love to hear your thoughts below! Please note: inappropriate comments will be moderated.

Your email is never published nor shared.