May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month

The month of May brings Better Hearing and Speech into focus to raise awareness about hearing and speech problems, encouraging people to analyze their own hearing and speech and encouraging action if it is thought there might be a problem. Treatment can then be given to improve the quality of life in people with problems speaking, understanding, or hearing.

Disorders of speech, hearing, voice, and language can affect people at any age and develop at any point during a lifetime. The causes vary, too. The good news is that there are treatments available whether the disorder was present at birth or developed later due to injury, illness, or age.

There are a variety of illnesses that speech-language pathologists and audiologists can work together on to create a plan of treatment that will improve the quality of life for people with communication disorders.

Hearing loss can be broadly separated into two categories: conductive and sensorineural.

Conductive hearing loss happens when the natural movement of sound through the external ear or middle ear is blocked, and the full sound does not reach the inner ear.  Common reasons you might acquire a conductive hearing loss are earwax and foreign body in the ear. A few of the symptoms of conductive hearing loss include loss of hearing, feeling of fullness in the ear, drainage from the ear, pain in the ear, and dizziness. Fortunately, most cases of conductive hearing loss can be improved.

Sensorineural hearing loss happens when there is damage to tiny hair cells in the cochlea.  The cochlea also known as the hearing part of the ear, turns sound waves into electrical signals that pass along the auditory nerve to the brain.  Damaged hair cells are unable to convert sound waves into electrical signals.  Auditory nerve abnormalities also cause sensorineural hearing loss.  Reasons you might acquire sensorineural hearing loss are virus, exposure to loud noises (acoustic trauma), head trauma, autoimmune inner ear disease, and aging.  Some symptoms include sudden hearing loss, difficulty understanding speech, ringing in the ear, and dizziness.

Voice, speech, or language disorders can affect many people including those who stutter and people who use their voices a lot in their jobs, like teachers and performers.  These disorders can be particularly challenging for young children and older adults. Early intervention is key to helping children with communication disorders reach their full potential.  Communication disorders can also be associated with other conditions such as brain damage and stroke which most commonly affects middle-aged and older adults.

There are many possible causes of speech disorders, including muscles weakness, brain injuries, degenerative diseases, autism, and hearing loss.  Mild speech disorders may not require any treatment. Some speech disorders may simply go away and others can improve with speech therapy.  During speech therapy, a professional Speech-Language Pathologist will guide you through exercises that work to strengthen your face and throat muscles.

Signs of speech and language disorders include struggling to say words, saying words in the wrong order, repetition of words and struggling to understand others.


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