Foreign Accent Syndrome: Woman With Headache Wakes Up With British Accent


Rare as it can be, a woman from Texas suffering debilitating headaches woke up with a British accent. Her condition is called Foreign Accent Syndrome.

Former beauty queen Michelle Myers, 45, from Arizona has never left the country. She has never been to Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom, but a rare medical condition made her speak the native accents of the said countries.

FAS is known to cause a person to speak with foreign intonation while still speaking their native language.

On three separate occasions since 2011, Myers suffered severe headaches and surprisingly woke up with a different accent each time. For several weeks, she was able to speak Irish and Australian.

"I started having problems with my voice. I started noticing that when I tried to talk and say something, my tongue felt like it wasn't right," Myers said when she started speaking with an Irish accent in September 2011.

Her latest bout with FAS in 2015 allowed her to speak British accent. She's been speaking the foreign accent since then.

Headaches And Accents

In May 2015, Myers was rushed to the emergency room due to severe headache that lasted for days.

Myers said doctors ruled that she had a transient ischemic attack or a mini-stroke. TIA happens when the blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked or reduced. After that incident, Myers was diagnosed with FAS.

According to the University of Texas at Dallas, FAS is a type of speech disorder that can cause a sudden change to a person's speech so that the native speaker is perceived to speak with a foreign intonation or accent.

The most common cause of this rare condition is stroke or traumatic brain injury. Multiple sclerosis, neurological damage, or underlying health issues can also cause FAS.

Myers has another condition that could also be linked to her changing accents. She has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome — a group of disorders that affect connective tissues supporting the skin, bones, blood vessels, and many other organs, and tissues. Symptoms of this condition range from mildly loose joints to life-threatening complications.

"Who would do this for attention? I don't know. I just feel that people don't really understand how it feels to have your voice changed," Myers said in an interview. "I feel like a different person. The person that I am now have been through a lot."

Real And Rare Condition

It was proven that Myers is not crazy nor is she faking her changing accents. Her medical condition is real and rare.

This rare condition was first recorded by French neurologist Pierre Marie in 1907 after a man in Paris spoke a local German dialect after suffering a stroke.

FAS cases had been documented around the world, with patients speaking changing accents from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian.

Speech changes such as consonant substitution, voicing errors, vowel distortions, and prolongations are associated with FAS.

Only about 100 individuals were diagnosed with FAS over the last century.

In 2010, Robin Jenks Vanderlip from Fairfax, Virginia, started speaking with a Russian accent after falling down the stairwell and hitting her head. In 2016, Lisa Alamia from Texas found her accent has changed to British after waking up from a jaw surgery.

Strange as it may be, Myers said she has come to terms with her speaking voice.

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