By Brieann Yimoyines Papp, M.S., CCC-SLP, Co-Founder and Speech & Language Pathologist
So it’s May, one of my favorite times of the year! Spring is in full bloom, there is a bustle of
excitement for summer, there are several birthdays to celebrate and honor amongst family and friends, and professionally it’s BETTER HEARING AND SPEECH MONTH! Who wouldn’t get excited about that??
Every year, our governing body through which we as speech-language pathologists receive our credentials of CCC-SLP, takes a month to celebrate and showcase the fields of audiology and speech-pathology to bring awareness to causes that impact hearing, speech, language and everything in between.
This year’s theme: Communication – The Key to Connection
My first thought, what a perfect theme as it fits right in with our company mission
to “communicate, grow, and connect.” And as I explored further in anticipation of this month, American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), is showcasing our beloved sister-profession of audiology however, don’t be so quick to write off “better hearing and speech month” with this blog post coming from an Speech & Language Pathologist!
Central Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) – Signs and Symptoms/Diagnosing:
Children may have a hard time understanding speech in noisy environments, following
directions, discriminating between similar sounding speech sounds, trouble with reading, spelling, and understanding information presented verbally. A multidisciplinary team approach is key for fully assessing and understanding the difficulties associated with APD (i.e. SLPs, teachers), however it is important to understand that ONLY AN AUDIOLOGIST can diagnose an APD.
It should also be known that most of the testing administered require that a child be at least 7-8 years of age because of the variability in rain function for younger children. Once a diagnosis is made, there are several types of deficits that are then identified relative to the impact it has on each individual child.
There is no specific treatment or method that is used to treat APD, therefore, it is highly
individualized. Treatment will focus on areas such as changing the learning or communication environment, recruiting higher-order skills to help compensate for the disorder, and remediation of the auditory disorder itself. Treatment will focus on specific areas that are impacted by the APD itself (i.e. reading, cognition, executive functioning, language, memory, attention, spelling, writing etc).
There are a variety of programs available to help as well such as Interactive Metronome (IM), which our therapists are at All About Speech & Language (AASL) are trained in and are happy to provide information as to how this program can help treat symptoms associated with APD, as well as Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI) a custom-made auditory brain stimulation program for individuals with neurological disorders, which our AASL Occupational Therapists are trained in and oversee. If you would like more information on any of these programs, please let us know we are happy to set up a call or meet with you about how they can help your child.
There are a variety of important and applicable matters as it concerns hearing and your child/teen as well as family members that you should be aware of! A few I will highlight: ear infections, swimmer’s ear, auditory processing disorders in children, childhood hearing loss/ causes/effects on development, earwax, hearing aids/cochlear implants, hyperacusis, tinnitus, and finally the impact of noise on hearing!
Hearing Loss: Causes, Detection, Managing:
Can either be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. A variety of causes are linked to
congenital hearing loss such as: prematurity, maternal infections, maternal diabetes, lack of oxygen, as well as genetic factors and family history. Acquired hearing loss can occur at any point, as a result of illness or injury such as: ear infections, flu, chicken pox, measles, meningitis, as well as noise exposure.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are a few types of losses that are categorized based upon where the loss is taking place (i.e. outer, middle, inner ear, mixed) as well as degrees to which the loss can impact a child (i.e. mild, moderate, severe, profound). Hearing loss can be unilateral or bilateral (one or both ears). Depending upon the amount or degree of loss, speech and language skills can be impacted so it is important to get the appropriate support with hearing aids/cochlear implants and then therapy services in place.
Hearing Loss & Development
Implications of hearing loss on development impact tasks involving language concepts,
understanding and using speech sounds, auditory attention and memory, comprehension of spoken information and directions, as well as receptive and expressive language. Did you know that infants as young as 4 weeks old can be fit with hearing devices? Early detection and the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants is critical for the development of speech, language, communication skills, and overall learning. Research has shown that children identified with hearing loss at the age of 6-months, who receive hearing aids or a cochlear implant and support services, have been shown to have language skills similar to those children of the same age who have normal hearing.
Audiologists play a critical role in conducting assessments for determining if your child has hearing loss, fitting you with appropriate devices (i.e. hearing aids or cochlear implants), as well as in identifying if your child has a Central Auditory Processing Disorder. They also are responsible for conducting newborn hearing screenings after babies are born. Having newborn hearing screenings is important as hearing loss is invisible, untreated loss can cause speech and language delays, and early access to sound through hearing aids and other devices will help to prevent speech and language delays!
While it may occur as annoying, earwax serves a role in protecting the ear from dust, dirt, bacteria, and objects. If your child has earwax and it needs to be removed please see a professional; an audiologist, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), or doctor can safely remove it. Using Q-tips and other such devices to remove wax is NOT recommended as you run the risk of puncturing or damaging the eardrum which can lead to impaction, temporary hearing loss, and even dizziness. Small objects around the ears, nose, and mouth are just generally not recommended when it comes to an SLPs overall recommendations for toys, playing, and kids!
A common misconception about noise and hearing loss is that it typically comes from the workplace. In today’s modern world where “noise” seems to be coming from every direction, there are unexpected places in which noise can be damaging and impacting your hearing. What is damaging about these types of noise and the impact on hearing loss is that it’s the constant exposure over time that does more harm than good.
Take a look at some hidden sources of noise that might be a part of your daily routine: listening to music, hairdryers, movie theaters, home entertainment centers (i.e. TV), car stereo systems, earbuds in phones and other devices, fitness clubs, bars and restaurants, concerts, amusement parks, lawn mowers, blenders, yard equipment (leaf blowers, weed trimmers), alarm clocks, vacuum cleaners, and even children’s toys!
One simple way is to wear hearing protection in the form of ear plugs for older children, teens, and adults. For younger children, noise cancelling headphones/earmuffs can be worn externally when exposed to loud noises as well as removing batteries from toys that make noise. There are also apps that you can download that allow you to measure types of noise (i.e. from painful to faint). General awareness around the overall volume of the TV, how loud music is on in the car, and if the volume is loud when kids are playing with devices such as the iPad, are all steps in the right direction for monitoring the level of noise exposure your family is getting from day-today.
General guidelines are if you have to raise your voice to be heard, things are too loud. If you can’t hear someone and they are 3-ft away from you or just outside your “space bubble,” it is too loud. If you have a muffled feeling in your ears after being exposed to noise, it is too loud. And if you have ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, it is too loud! When in doubt, get checked out! You can always get your hearing assessed by an audiologist to rule out or confirm any suspected hearing loss!
Long-term exposure to noise has negative impacts on the body such as: increased blood pressure, changes in the way the heart beats, disturbed digestion, contribution to premature birth, as well as disrupted sleep. Don’t delay, act today! Take the proper precautions to ensuring you and your family, and your overall health and well being are safe from everyday exposure to NOISE!
Ear infections occur when the middle ear becomes infected and is otherwise known as acute otitis media. They can happen in one or both ears; and can affect infants, children, and adults, with infections being most common in young children. Signs include: tugging or pulling on the ear, crying more than usual, fever, drainage from the ear, not responding to sounds, and trouble sleeping.
Ear infections can be with or without fluid; the latter taking longer to heal and resolve. Fluid is most common in children under the age of 2 years old, however, if it persists it can lead to hearing loss as well as impact speech and language development. If this happens, tubes may need to be placed in a child’s ear in order to allow the fluid to escape the middle ear. Ear infections are generally treated with and without antibiotics, waiting out the fluid to see if it dissipates, as well as with getting tubes. Surgery for tubes is done by an ENT.
Persistent ear infections can impact speech and language development so it is crucial to monitor the frequency with which your child may be getting them. Their ability to understand language, process speech sounds, attend to who’s talking, and develop sounds and words for expressive language can all be impacted further warranting the need for speech and language therapy. If you have questions about your child’s speech and language development as a result of persistent and chronic ear infections, please do not hesitate to talk to an AASL Speech-Therapy Team Member. We are here to help answer any questions you have!
Occurs as an infection to the outer ear canal due to moisture getting trapped in the ear canal or injury to the ear canal. This can happen to both children and adults and is quite painful. Symptoms include redness of the outer ear canal, pain when you touch the ear, drainage from the ear canal, itchiness inside the ear. Swimmer’s ear is usually treated with ear drops after visiting your ENT and getting an ear exam.
Ways to avoid getting swimmer’s ear include towel-drying your ears after getting them wet from showering or swimming, use earplugs if you swim a lot, and do not put your fingers / object / Q Tips / etc. as this can aggravate or infect the ear further.
As ASHA states, “Each May, Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) provides an opportunity
to raise awareness about communication disorders and role of ASHA members in providing life altering treatment.”
So, there you have it! A review of a variety of disorders that are diagnosed, overseen, and treated by audiologists and speech-language pathologists alike! “Communication: The Key to Connection” is surely a fitting theme for this year; and how education on the topics above, impacts speech and language development as well as the importance they play in a child’s ability to grow and communicate with those around him/her!
All article reviews and blogs can be found in our upcoming waiting room reading materials “Extra, Extra Read All About It!” If you would like more information on any of the topics above, please see an AASL Speech-Therapy Team member at either of our offices!
Here’s to Communicating, Growing, and Connecting no matter what developmental challenges we might face! Knowledge is power: educate yourself through asking questions to your therapists, know the signs and symptoms, spread the word to others, and remember our entire team at AASL is here for you!
Till next year’s Better Hearing And Speech Month, Miss Brieann 🙂
Source: American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), www.asha.org/bhsm/, 2017