May is Better Speech-Language and Hearing Month. We thank our audiologists and speech-language pathologists for the incredible work they do everyday at the University of Vermont Medical Center!
Communication disorders are among the most common conditions in adults and children, costing the United States billions annually due to lost work productivity, special education, and medical treatment.
At the University of Vermont Medical Center, we have a dedicated team of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology professionals and staff who make a difference each and every day in the lives of our neighbors and community.
From the operating room, where audiologists work with giving children the gift of sound through cochlear implants, to the emergency department, where speech-language pathologists (SLPs) evaluate swallowing and ensure safety from aspiration, to the NICU, where audiology technicians conduct hearing screenings, to the ICU, where SLPs work on returning a voice to one who has lost theirs. Whether in acute care, on the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit or in the outpatient setting, we focus on the fundamental aspects of what makes us alive and human: hearing, understanding, talking, thinking, reading, writing, eating and drinking that allow us to play, work, socialize, reflect, create, discover, invent and love. We strive and help others improve or increase the quality of their lives.
Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic health conditions, affecting 50 million Americans.
It is highly prevalent among adults, often with serious impact on daily life and functioning. In fact, 8.5 percent of adults aged 55–64 have disabling hearing loss. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65–74 and 50 percent of those who are age 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.
Unfortunately, among adults aged 70 and older who have hearing loss and who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent ) has ever used them. This is in spite of the fact that hearing loss may affect everything from mental health (anxiety, depression, and feelings of social isolation) to vocational success (including premature departure from the workforce) to other health issues (among them, earlier onset of dementia)—and the fact that treatment advances and today’s hearing aids are more effective and less noticeable than ever.
Speech, Language, Cognition and Swallowing
In the areas of voice, speech, and language, many disorders may affect older Americans. Some may be the result of another health condition, and some may occur on their own.
- Aphasia (a loss of the ability to use and/or understand language) is most common in people in their middle to late years.
- Difficulty with speech and swallowing (both issues treated by speech-language pathologists) may result from medical conditions such as a traumatic birth, stroke, ALS or oro-pharyngeal/laryngeal cancer.
- Cognitive deficits may result from events such as a Traumatic Brain Injury, concussion or chemobrain.
- Hoarseness or Dysphonia is a common condition and a job hazard that teachers and singers often experience.
Proper evaluation, assessment and treatment for these disorders is critical to daily functioning, prevention of additional deficits, safety and improved quality of life.
The Role of Loved Ones
Loved ones are the people who are in the best position to influence the decision to seek help.
If you have a concern about a loved one’s ability to communicate, encourage them to seek an evaluation from a certified and licensed audiologist or speech-language pathologist. Loved ones play an important role in providing support. Accompanying the person to their appointment will help bridge the communication gap. So often we see families speak to each other, without a single word passing their lips. We value this opportunity to learn more about their loved one and teach strategies to help them.
Hats off to the amazing audiologists and speech-language pathologists who work at the University of Vermont Medical Center!