Woman who went mute for two months wakes up with four different accents

A woman who went mute for two months after a mystery brain injury has finally got her voice back – but now speaks with four different accents.

Doctors were perplexed after countless tests failed to explain why Emily Egan, 31, lost the ability to speak.

And when she finally began to talk again, Emily’s voice sounded nothing like the Essex accent she had before.

Emily, from Bournemouth, now mostly speaks with a Polish accent – even in ‘broken English’ at times – but her accent can suddenly change to sound French and Italian as well.

If she experiences a lot of stress, her accent becomes Russian, and when she is exhausted, Emily can lose the ability to speak altogether.

After months of confusion, Emily has finally been diagnosed with foreign accent syndrome – a rare speech disorder caused by brain damage.

Initially suffering from headaches, she went to hospital and medics initially suspected a stroke, but tests ruled out.

Eventually, she lost the ability to speak altogether and doctors were baffled.

They believe her speech disorder was caused by brain damage – but don’t yet know what happened to cause the damage.

Emily said: ‘This whole experience has been exhausting and totally overwhelming.

‘It’s not just my accent that has changed – I don’t speak or think in the same way as before this and I can’t construct sentences like I used to.

‘I write differently now, my whole vocabulary has changed and my English has got worse.’

She says the accent change has caused her to experience xenophobia, resulting in abuse from strangers.

Emily had been suffering from headaches for two weeks before her voice suddenly deepened while she was working at the children’s home she manages.

Her speech rapidly became slow and slurred – a key indication of a stroke – so Emily was rushed to hospital where she underwent extensive CT and MRI scans.

Doctors ruled out a stroke but were left confused when Emily lost the ability to speak completely during her hospital stay.

She was discharged to a neurologist after three weeks in hospital but still without a voice, and communicated solely through an app on her phone.

‘Adjusting to communicating like this was so hard, I felt like a completely different person,’ she said.

Emily and her partner Bradleigh, 27, had booked a holiday to Thailand before she fell ill and her neurologist encouraged her to take the trip and try to relax as much as possible.

Five days into her holiday in March 2020, Emily slowly began to speak again but with great difficulty.

Her voice slowly grew stronger as the days passed but Emily was shocked when she realised she had developed an Eastern European accent.

‘On holiday, I started making sounds like a deaf person trying to talk – it is thought that the neuropathways had started to open as my body had completely relaxed.

‘By the time I was home, the words were sounding like a foreign language.

‘I was so thrilled when my voice started coming back but now I don’t even recognise the voice that comes out of my mouth, it doesn’t sound like me.’

Since her diagnosis, Emily has been having private vocal therapy once a week over Zoom but there is no indication if she will ever regain her normal accent.

Emily has now been diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder as well.

Her left arm and hand are now paralysed but doctors hope she will regain feeling and movement with time and physical therapy.

Emily, who’s had to quit her job, said: ‘I’m only 31 years old and I am shocked at how much my life has changed in a matter of months.

‘The hardest thing for me is learning that this voice is ok. I have to learn to accept that it’s ok for me to not be able to get the words out straight away, it’ll come eventually.

‘I just have to stop getting so frustrated with myself so am practicing holistic approaches to calm and clear my mind with my therapist, as when I get frustrated, everything goes, there’s no speech, and it’s back to square one.

‘It’s just a matter of taking every day as it comes, so I’m just trying to stay positive and hopeful.’

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