Celebrating Better Speech and Hearing Month and the Role of Speech Pathologists in Battling Speech Disorders
In this Blog, I usually talk about a variety of specific issues faced by people who have challenges with their speech and the people who help them deal with these challenges (including caregivers and family members).
But sometimes it’s good to step back and look at the bigger picture. And since May is Better Speech and Hearing Month (some organizations flip it around and call it Better Hearing and Speech Month, but I’m good with either title), this is as good a time as any!
So, in this post, I’ll share a little history about Better Speech and Hearing Month, a little background about what speech pathologists like myself do in our work, and the role of technology in helping those who have trouble speaking to better communicate with those around them.
I’ll even throw in some “fun facts” at the end that might surprise you!
Alright, let’s dig in!
Better Speech and Hearing Month: A Short History
Better Speech and Hearing Month was founded way back in 1927 by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), so we’re closing in on the 100-year mark!
ASHA, America’s leading organization for speech-language pathologists and speech/language/hearing scientists, founded the event to promote understanding about speech and hearing disorders, to prevent hearing loss, and to encourage people to seek treatment for hearing and speech-related issues.
Another goal was to de-stigmatize and normalize treatment of speech and hearing issues so people would seek out the help they needed and so they could enjoy a better quality of life.
What Speech Pathologists Do
As mentioned above, ASHA is the leading organization for speech pathologists like me. But people often ask me, “What do speech pathologists do?”
And if you’ve recently lost your ability to speak due to a stroke, brain injury, illness, or whatever (or if you’re a caregiver or family member of someone in this situation), you might be wondering how we go about helping people.
So, here’s a little information that might help.
Speech pathologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. As you can tell, that covers a lot of territory!
- Speech disorders happen when someone has difficulty speaking correctly or fluently (stuttering is an example of disfluency) or has problems with their voice.
- Language disorders can be when a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language) or communicating with others (expressive language).
- Social communication disorders happen when someone has trouble with verbal or nonverbal communication in social settings. One group of people who almost always struggle with social communication are individuals with autism spectrum disorder, but others have issues of this type, as well.
- Cognitive-communication disorders are those where someone has problems organizing their thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem solving. These issues, as you might imagine, make it difficult to hold a conversation with someone.
- Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) are feeding and swallowing problems, which affect many more people than you might think. -Source, ASHA
Speech pathologists also work in a variety of settings with varying roles and responsibilities. Some speech pathologists work in research settings, others in educational settings, and still others in health care settings. And still others travel and visit their patients in their homes.
Speech language pathologists also often work as part of a collaborative team of professionals. Other team members, depending on the age and situation of the client, might include teachers, doctors, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, and rehabilitation counselors.
Over 180,000 speech pathologists are members of ASHA members. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from the services of a speech pathologist, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact someone. That’s what we’re here for!
The Role of Speech Assistance Apps in Battling Speech Disorders
One of the areas about which I’m super passionate is using available technology to help my clients be able to communicate with those around them so they can live their best lives.
And when I look back over my 40 years of experience as a speech language pathologist, the area that I think has changed the most is the technology.
I mean, a LOT has changed in 40 years, such as how much more research has been done on different disorders and how that research has allowed us to better serve our clients, but the technology available today is leaps and bounds ahead of where we were even 10 years ago.
Augmentative and alternative communication used to consist of static picture communication boards or object communication boards. When I started, there were maybe two companies producing some type of technological communication system.
In the early days, we speech pathologists often worked by intuition and trial and error, and we often made a lot of our own “low tech” systems to help our individual clients communicate. I remember using simple wiring and contact buttons and soldering them to make a switch. We’ve come a looooong way since then!
I guess that’s why I was so interested in developing new technology to help my clients, which ultimately led to me designing, creating, and self-funding APP2Speak, which (and I admit I may be a little biased here) is one of the best speech assistance apps for adults on the market.
If you’d like to learn more about APP2Speak and how it might help you or a loved one communicate better after losing the ability to speak, click on over to the How It Works page.
Better Speech and Hearing Month Fun Facts
Just for the heck of it, let’s wrap up this month’s blog post with some “fun facts” about everything speech and hearing (though, of course, many of these are not “fun” at all):
- The smallest bone in the human body is the stapes, which is located in the middle ear and is part of the process of conducting sound to the middle ear.
- Speech language pathologists ranked #35 on the U.S. News and Reports list of top 100 jobs.
- Every day, 33 children are born with hearing loss, making it the most common congenital condition in the United States.
- Six to eight million Americans have some form of language impairment.
- Stuttering affects four times as many males as females.
- Many famous people overcame speech and articulation disorders, including Thomas Jefferson, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, and Elton John.
- There are more than 140,000 practicing speech pathologists in the United States.
- Speech language pathologists are also known as “logopaedics” (though nobody has every called me that).
- Approximately 26 million Americans ages 20-69 have high-frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises.
- At age 65, one out of every three Americans has hearing loss.
- A study published in 2017 shows around 13%-18% of U.S. teens exhibit signs of noise-induced hearing loss.
- Sitting in front of a speaker at a rock concert can expose you to 120 decibels, which can damage your hearing in as little as 7.5 minutes. So, feel free to get your rock on, but maybe don’t fight for that “prime” position close to the stage.