MMay is the month to honor improvements in speech and hearing, and what better way to celebrate than to schedule a hearing exam?
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) sets aside this month each year to remind the American public of the crucial importance of communication. What other way can we connect with those in our families, communities, and nation? Although we can all agree that communication is important, it can take many forms. Some use sign language, and others rely on body language and subtle cues when spoken language is not possible. For those who use speech and hearing to communicate, this month is an opportunity to look at ways to improve the abilities we already have.
Communicating Across the Lifespan
Each year, the ASHA chooses a theme for Better Speech and Hearing Month, and this year’s title is “Communicating Across the Lifespan.” Many of us immediately associate hearing loss with aging, and indeed that demographic is the most likely to experience hearing loss. After a lifetime of sound exposure, the sensitive, tiny hairs of the inner ear can be damaged, leading to a loss of hearing.
As it relates to this month’s commemoration, hearing loss can lead to problems communicating, and the ASHA wants to remind us that the process of aging can bring on new challenges in conversations. However, older people are not the only ones to experience obstacles to communication. As we know, communication disorders can occur at any point in the lifespan, and the ASHA chose this theme for 2019 to point to all those who encounter struggles in the spoken communication process.
Among those with communication disorders, three distinct types can be identified. First, some people develop language disorders. These disorders take place in the process of cognition. Though people with language disorders can hear and speak, they have breaks in the connection between language and meaning. If they hear sounds, they may not immediately form meaningful units of communication in the mind. The solutions to language disorders are quite complex and require the conjoined efforts of neurologists and other communication specialists for treatment.
A second group of people may have a communication disorder due to an underlying speech issue. These people are able to hear and understand others’ speech, but they have trouble getting across their own thoughts in spoken communication. Some of the speech pathologies that are most common include mispronouncing sounds, phonemes, syllables or words, unusual timing or volume in the delivery of words, or repeating the first part of a word several times before pronouncing the entire word. These speech disorders can occur for many reasons and at different moments in the lifespan, but they commonly develop in childhood.
The final subset of communication disorders stems from hearing loss. Those with hearing impairments face a struggle to make sense of the sounds they hear. Of course those with total deafness also rely on other ways to communicate rather than spoken words. Among those with hearing loss, the communication disorder can take many forms. For some the volume of speech is simply too quiet to be understood. Others have trouble hearing in particular frequency ranges. Still others suffer from tinnitus, a ringing, buzzing, or whirring in the ears, that obstructs the understanding of language. In addition, some listeners hear a muffled sound in conversation that makes it difficult to discern words from sound.
Addressing Hearing Health in May
If any of these conditions reminds you of your own experience or someone you love, why not begin with a hearing test? Though speech and language disorders can underlie communication problems, in many cases hearing loss can be simplest to diagnose and assist with technology such as hearing aids.
Here at Audibel, we offer a comprehensive consultation and hearing test to understand your current hearing ability and the types of technology that might best serve your needs. Better Speech and Hearing Month is the perfect time to take the steps toward improving your own hearing if you feel a problem in the communication process. In addition, you may want to encourage your loved one to come in for a hearing test if you have noticed communication difficulties. May is the right to spring ahead to better hearing!