Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

     The American Speech-Language -Hearing Association (ASHA) recognizes May as Better Hearing and Speech Month.   There are so many topics that can be discussed here including receptive and expressive language, speech sound development, fluency, voice disorders, motor speech disorders, acquired speech/language and hearing problems; the list goes on and on.  Many of these difficulties certainly are out of our control and require the help of professionals to remediate them.  There are some, however, that can be prevented.

     Noise induced hearing loss is on the rise.  We live in a noisy world.  Just take a minute to listen to the sound around you.  The sounds of an air conditioner, dehumidifier, motorcycle, street sounds, lawn mower, snow blower, etc, are all loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss with prolonged exposure.   Video games, ear buds, music and television sets if played loud enough will cause damage over time.   Sound intensity or loudness is measured in decibels (dB).   Normal hearing can detect sound at 0-20 dB.  Conversational speech is usually between 40-60 dB.  In decibel measurement an increase of 6 dB usually doubles the sound intensity.   In other words 66dB is twice as loud as 60dB.  With that in mind compare the noises in our homes:  Thunder clap (120dB), vacuum cleaner (70dB), garbage disposal (80dB) and the list goes on.  While we cannot control many of these sounds we can turn down the volume on our favorite devices especially those that are being listened to through ear buds. There are apps that can measure decibel levels in your home.  Many are free.

      My favorites include:

         Downloading these apps and being aware of the sounds around you can go a long way in preventing noise induced hearing loss.       

     Another easy fix for what may appear to be language processing difficulties is slowing the rate of our speech when talking with children. Language is processed through our central nervous system.   We must decode each sound; blend the sounds for the smallest units of meaning, process grammar and content for familiarity before we can truly understand what has been said to us.  It is an extremely complex process. Research shows that young children (ages 4-8 years) can process language at a rate of approximately 120 words per minute.  The average adult speaks at a rate of approximately 160 words per minutes.  Fred Rogers, of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”, spoke between 118-120 words per minute.  Young children were drawn to him because they could understand everything he was saying.  He was speaking at a rate which insured optimal processing for his audience of young listeners.  Many adults found his rate unsettling but his target audience could understand him and they listened!   So the next time parents and teachers feel as if their children are not listening or comprehending a message, simply  slow the rate of your speech and see if you notice a difference in their  understanding.  You may be surprised.

     If at any time you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, please contact your school district or child’s home school for assistance.

Helpful link:

Linda Costigan
Speech/Language Pathologist


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