Better Hearing and Speech
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Better Hearing and Speech

May is national Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time to share important information about the services speech-language pathologists provide to our community. Here are the top 10 things you might not know about this valuable therapeutic specialty.

  1. Speech and language pathologists help people of all ages. They support their patients’ ability to communicate, which is critical at each stage of life. Young children need a strong foundation for language and literacy, while school-aged children require communication for academic and social success. For adults, communication is a key part of their career and personal relationships.
  2. Less well known is the role that speech-language pathologists play in helping people to swallow and eat safely. Difficulties may include coughing or gagging during meals, food or liquid leaking from the mouth, or food getting stuck in the mouth or throat. These difficulties may occur due to preterm birth, developmental disabilities, medical conditions, and illness and injury.
  3. Speech and language pathologists help people who are having problems with their voice, like hoarseness, breathiness, pain, and frequent coughing. Certain professions—like teachers, musicians, and coaches—are at greater risk for voice problems due to misuse or overuse.
  4. Sometimes speech and language pathologists help people find other ways to communicate. These include no- or low-tech and high-tech options such as pointing or gesturing, using picture boards, and using speech-generating devices.
  5. They provide gender-affirming voice and communication consultations, including work on pitch, tone, vocal health, nonverbal communication, and more.
  6. Beyond speech and language, these specialized professionals help people with cognition, including difficulties with attention, memory, problem-solving abilities, organizational skills, and judgment. 
  7. Communication and swallowing disorders may occur for a variety of reasons. In children, this may be due to low birth weight, congenital syndromes, developmental disorders, and injuries or illnesses. In adults, they are common in those who have had a stroke, brain injury, head and neck cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
  8. Although the specific challenges that people experience can vary significantly, one commonality is that most people can improve with the help of a speech-language pathologist.
  9. Speech-language pathologists work with people every day in settings that include schools, private practices, health care facilities, and even their own homes.
  10. If you have concerns about your own or a family member’s communication, cognition, or swallowing ability, you can reach out to your primary care provider for help. They may make a referral to a speech-language pathologist that you can work with to make important improvements in your speech or swallowing abilities and support your enjoyment and quality of life.

Katelyn O’Neill, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at SVMC Outpatient Rehabilitation, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.

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