May 12, 2004
Purdue University experts listed below can comment on issues relating to hearing and speech. May is Better Speech and Hearing Month.
Experts comment on issues relating to hearing and speech
1. Shhhh! Lower your voice or risk losing it
2. Sounds of summer not so sweet to the ear
3. Therapy begins when patients embrace stuttering
4. Aging, neurological disorders may be hard to swallow
Shhhh! Lower your voice or risk losing it
A Purdue University voice expert is speaking up to tell people to take care of their voices now or run the risk of being silenced later.
"We live in a loud society where people yell and scream more than they need to," says Barbara Solomon, an expert in voice therapy and director of the Speech-Language Clinic in the Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences. "People of all ages need to learn how to be kind to their voices and how to use their voices appropriately. But because so many of our daily activities music, traffic, movies and machines are so loud, people can forget what normal is. In fact, we even speak louder than we need to on our cell phones, especially in cars where the added noise makes us speak even louder."
Hoarseness and breaks in the voice can be an indication that people talk too loudly and that their voices are starting to suffer the consequences. Smoking and recurring acid reflux also can strain a person's voice or lead to vocal cord problems, which can cause wheezing and breathing difficulty.
"To maintain a normal voice, drink lots of water and don't allow your throat to dry out," says Solomon, who also works with theater students to perfect their voices. "If you neglect or abuse your voice, you run the risk of losing it."
Solomon also can talk about voice concerns for professional speakers.
CONTACT: Solomon, (765) 494-3820, email@example.com
Sounds of summer not so sweet to the ear
Think about ear care like skin care during the summer months, says a Purdue University hearing expert.
"When you pack the sunscreen for this summer's activities, include a few pairs of disposable ear plugs," says Robert Novak, clinical professor and director of clinical education in audiology. "Noisy summer events, especially concerts, fireworks and even mowing the lawn, can be harmful to a person's hearing. And unlike a sunburn, you may not realize the harm to your body right away."
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, nearly 28 million people in the United States suffer from some form of hearing loss. About 40 percent of those people are under the age of 65.
"If you have to shout to talk to someone who is three feet away, then the noise is potentially damaging for your hearing," Novak says. "If you don't have ear plugs, simply plugging your ears with your fingers can help. Or, just move away from the speakers at a concert or watch fireworks from a greater distance."
Novak also can talk about other ear-related concerns during summer. For example, a bacterial infection in the outer ear canal called swimmer's ear is more prevalent for those who swim frequently. Novak says swimmers should make sure their ears are dry when they finish their time in the water. He also can talk about minimizing the development of ear pain and middle ear infections for travelers who have to fly when they are congested or suffering from allergies.
CONTACT: Novak, (765) 494-1534, firstname.lastname@example.org
Progress in therapy begins when patients accept stuttering
People must overcome the shame and guilt commonly associated with stuttering before they can begin to improve their communication skills, says a Purdue expert.
"So many people struggle to hide this disorder and, until they accept it, therapy is really not beneficial," says Bill Murphy, a speech pathologist in Purdue's Speech-Language Clinic. "The more you try to hide it, the more tension you create and the more likely you are to stutter."
Stuttering, which is identified by sound repetition, long pauses or a speech block while attempting to say a word, affects about 5 percent of preschoolers and about 1 percent of the adult population. This disorder is thought to be a complex combination of biology and faulty speech learning. It is diagnosed when a child has been stuttering consistently for six months to a year. Family history is a factor, and boys tend to stutter more than girls.
Approximately 70 percent of preschool children outgrow stuttering, and the recovery rate with early therapy is even higher. School age children and adults are rarely cured. However, speech pathologists can dramatically help these people to reduce the severity of their stuttering and help them to make talking enjoyable, Murphy says.
"People who don't stutter also can help people feel comfortable about stuttering," Murphy says. "Friends, acquaintances and colleagues can help those who stutter by not finishing their sentences or interrupting them."
CONTACT: Murphy, (765) 494-3810, email@example.com
Aging, neurological disorders may be hard to swallow
As more Americans become responsible for the home care of older loved ones, family caregivers need to educate themselves about swallowing problems caused during aging or as a result of neurological problems, says a Purdue speech pathologist.
"Swallowing disorders occur with aging and from other causes, such as brain injury or stroke," says Joanne Gutek, a clinical supervisor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences. "Ignoring swallowing problems can significantly affect a person's quality of life. For example, a person may find eating and drinking more difficult and may even be embarrassed in social situations to eat. These concerns can lead to risk of poor nutrition, dehydration or even aspiration pneumonia."
Indications of swallowing problems can include coughing during or after eating or drinking, needing extra time to chew or swallow, or experiencing weight loss or dehydration, she says.
Gutek says in certain situations family caregivers can learn exercises from speech pathologists to help people learn how to swallow safely and effectively. Gutek also can talk about the variety of products available for people with swallowing disorders.
CONTACT: Gutek, (765) 494-3816, firstname.lastname@example.org