By Kathy Hubbard
May being Better Hearing and Speech Month gives us the opportunity to bring awareness about disorders involving voice, speech, hearing, and language. Communication disorders such as these can affect people at any age. As a matter of fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), says that at least twenty percent of U.S. adults, at some point in their lives, experience significant difficulty in hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech or language.
“These challenges can compromise physical and emotional health and affect the social, educational, vocational, and recreational aspects of life,” they say. “Hearing loss and voice, speech, and language disorders can be particularly challenging for young children and older adults.”
For children, hearing loss can delay voice, speech and language skills. Without these skills, the child may be at risk for learning disabilities and for psychosocial problems when they hit their teen years.
“Early intervention can be key to helping children with communication disorders reach their full potential,” NIDCD says.
NIDCD’s website has a checklist for parents regarding a child’s hearing and communicative development. Questions are grouped by ages. For instance, in the birth to three month section the yes and no questions include: Reacts to loud sounds. Calms down or smiles when spoken to. Coos and makes pleasure sounds. Smiles when he or she sees you.
In the four to six month list it asks things like: Follows sounds with his or her eyes. Notices toys that make noise. Babbles in speech-like way and uses many different sounds, including sounds that begin with p, b, and m. Laughs.
Seven months to one year checklist includes: Turns in the direction of sounds. Imitates different speech sounds. Has one or two words (“Hi,” “dog,” “Dada,” or “Mama” by first birthday).
For one to two year olds, some of the questions are: Knows a few parts of the body and can point to them when asked. Follows simple commands and understands simple questions. Puts two words together. Points to pictures, when named, in books.
Moving on to the two to three year olds: Has a word for almost everything. Uses two- or three-word phrases to talk about and ask for things. Uses k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds. And in the three to four year range: Hears you when you call from another room. Uses sentences with four or more words.
For group four to five it asks: Hears and understands most of what is said at home and at school. Says most sounds correctly except for a few (l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, and th). Uses sentences that give many details.
There are a lot more questions than the ones I’ve included here and it’s important to remember that children vary in their development of speech and language skills. These milestones are what are considered “normal” and they give healthcare professionals the ability to determine if your child is on track or in need of extra help.
If you’re a parent who checks out the checklist and determines that you’ve answered no to more questions than yes, what are you to do? Start with a trip to your pediatrician. Your doctor may refer you to Bonner General Health’s Rehabilitation Department where certified staff is trained to help both children and adults with speech or language disorders. Performance Therapy Services is located at 423 N. Third Avenue. Call 208-265-3325 for an appointment.
Or, perhaps the medico will suggest that a visit to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician) is in order. Dr. Susan Anderson’s office is at 606 N. Third Avenue and you can call 208-265-1003 to schedule time to see her.
Lucky for us, NIDCD is sponsoring a ton of research to better understand the development of speech and language disorders, how to improve diagnostic capabilities and, most importantly how to create more effective treatments.
“An ongoing area of study is the search for better ways to diagnose and differentiate among the various types of speech delay. Additional genetic studies are looking for matches between different genetic variations and specific speech deficits,” NIDCD says.
Speech defects may seem cute when a child is young but kids grow up. Grandpa’s hearing loss can be poked fun at but think about what he’s missing. Help is available. Remember that.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at email@example.com.Click Here For More Information About Speech Therapy at Bonner General Health Click Here For More Information about Bonner General Ear, Nose & Throat