Anyone can be affected by a stutter, in fact, one of the most famous individuals to struggle with stuttering was King George VI. His journey through speech therapy can be seen in the 2010 film, The King’s Speech. Stuttering and other speech impairments are treated in a variety of ways, most common being speech therapy and working closely beside a speech-language pathologist in order to identify underlying causes (“Stuttering”). You may be surprised to discover that the 18th and 19th centuries had a rather barbaric approach to treating a stutter.

A scene from The King’s Speech where King George is preparing to give an important speech after working on his stutter through therapy with Lionel George Logue. Image Credit: Popsugar.

Hemiglossectomy:

Many early physicians failed to understand that a stutter has more to do with the brain than the mouth itself. One treatment that was known to be used, although not widely, was a hemiglossectomy, which involved cutting out all or pieces of a person’s tongue (“What”). This procedure was also practiced in a time before the use of anesthesia and the patients would have been held down by surgical assistants while their tongue was cut into.  The tongue has many blood vessels and will bleed for very long periods of time if cut. Some people aren’t even able to get tongue piercings if the piercer believes that the placement of their blood vessels could cause complications. Bleeding to death was common along with infection with this surgical procedure. The hemiglossectomy is still performed today, although not on patients with a stutter, but rather, as a means of treating oral cancers. Other past treatments for stutters included hypnosis and electric shock (“What”).

Roughly 3 million Americans stutter and it is known to affect people of all ages, and only about 25% of children with stutters continue to stutter into their adult lives (“Stuttering”). Stuttering is usually classified as either developmental or neurogenic and speech-language pathologists help families come up with a game plan that is suited for the individual they are trying to help. There are certainly better options than chopping off parts of the tongue–the quackery! 

If that didn’t make you thankful for modern medicine then I don’t know what will!

Until Next Time

N.F.

Sources:

“Stuttering.” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 6 March, 2017. Accessed 22 march, 2021. nidcd.nih.gov/health/stuttering.


“What Doesn’t Kill You? 5 Strange Historic Cures.” ancestry. 15 January, 2015. Accessed 22 March, 2021. https://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/what-doesnt-kill-you-5-strange-historic-cures/.

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