Hearing and speech impairment are conditions that can affect both children and adults. Hearing impairment may also be called deafness or hard of hearing.
Problems in the outer or middle ear or the hearing nerve can cause hearing impairment. These problems can affect one or both ears. Treatment options include:
- hearing aids
- cochlear implants
- audiological or aural rehabilitation
Speech impairment, also called communication disorder or voice disorder, means that an individual has trouble forming speech sounds. Symptoms of speech impairment include:
- problems with articulation
- problems with the voice
Treatments for speech impairment include audiological and speech therapy.
Many different treatments help hearing problems. Hearing aids and cochlear implants amplify sounds to make them easier to hear. Other services, such as learning to read lips, can help you learn to adapt to hearing impairment.
Early intervention (before 6 months of age) helps children develop at the same rate as their peers. Because these children learn the skill of hearing rather than recover hearing, it’s often called hearing habilitation.
Hearing habilitation includes:
- hearing aids
- assistive technology (such as amplified telephones, personal frequency modulation (FM) systems, and infrared systems)
- cochlear implants (devices that are surgically implanted into the ear. Microphones detect sound and transmit it to the auditory nerve, avoiding damaged portions of the ear)
- listening strategies
Hearing rehabilitation helps adults with hearing problems. These services include:
- hearing aids
- cochlear implants listening strategies
- communication techniques
- assistive technology
- support groups
Speech therapy can help individuals with a range of conditions, such as:
- swallowing disorders (often a result of nervous system disorders, gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD), stroke, and head or spinal cord injury)
- speech problems
- language issues
- speech fluency problems
- stuttering disorders
- voice disorders (such as vocal cord nodules and polyps, vocal cord paralysis, and spasmodic dysphonia)
- written language disorders
- developmental disorders
Your speech therapist will create a program for you. It will include activities to help you develop good sentence structure. You’ll learn how to move your lips, mouth, and tongue to make certain sounds if you have problems with pronunciation.
You’ll practice exercises to strengthen the muscles used for eating and swallowing if you have trouble swallowing. Your speech therapist can teach you other communication methods. These may include sign language, gestures, and facial expressions. Your speech therapist can also help you learn to use assistive technology.
Many organizations can help you learn more about hearing and speech and help for hearing and speech problems.
- American Speech Language Hearing Association: This organization provides resources about hearing and balance disorders. Speech, language, and swallowing disorders and information about advocacy and health insurance are also covered.
- Alexander Graham Bell Association: This association focuses on public education of hearing problems. They also organize the Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center. This center provides information and support for parents who have children with hearing impairments.
- Association of Late-Deafened Adults: This association has information about support groups.
- Center for Hearing and Communication. This organization provides services to individuals with hearing problems. Services include hearing aids, assistive devices, listening studio therapy, and cochlear implants. There are also speech reading, speech therapy, and emotional support programs.