Posts

BHSM & Beyond

Now that Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) is coming to a close, you might find yourself wondering what else you can do to help raise awareness about communication disorders.

To Recap BHSM

Communication disorders in children are not as uncommon as some may believe. Their prevalence as well as their lower than ideal treatment numbers makes them an increasingly pervasive issue, and similar numbers are seen in adults. “At least 20 percent of U.S. adults, at some point in their lives, have a significant problem with hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, or language,” according to the NIDCD.

If left untreated, communication disorders — which may or may not be developmental, but which can always affect a child’s development — can negatively influence one’s life for the worse. What ASHA and other organizations have undertaken with BHSM is a month aimed to help spread awareness about the importance of early intervention, no matter what stage of life you find yourself or your kids at.

For The Future

So, you’ve already shared all you could on your facebook and twitter feeds. You’ve used the #bhsm hashtag to connect with others. Maybe you even donated some money. What now?

* Just because BHSM is almost over, doesn’t mean your awareness campaign has to stop. Continue visiting the ASHA, the ASHA Leader, the NIDCD websites, which are always being updated with new and crucal information to share. If you’re not already, be sure to also follow their social media accounts. You can find similar speech and hearing resources through google, as well, and do the same.

* Get creative! Creativity is the best way to reach those who might not know about a certain topic. Take a peek at ASHA’s new children’s book, for example, aimed at helping siblings of kids with communication disorders.

* Talk to your congresspeople. If you want to reach a wider audience, this may be a great way forward. ASHA outlines the basics of what you should know about approaching your local governing body or representatives.

* Talk to your medical community. Local hospitals and clinics probably have the best ideas on how to approach spreading the news.

* Talk to your schools. Does your school system offer regular hearing screenings? How well do they manage to monitor for any developmental or comprehension issues their students may face? How well do they implement their IEP’s or 504 plans? It never hurts to ask. Maybe you can even inspire the board to be more proactive if they aren’t already.

There is a lot you can do, and the best part is — if you want to help make communication disorders into a more approachable and known topic of conversation — you don’t have to spend too much time doing it.

Learning a Language with Hearing Loss

Learning a language is one of the hardest — and most rewarding — things someone can do with their time. But if you have hearing loss, is it still possible?

Of course! Though it might be a little more difficult, going through the language learning process is not only doable, it can even benefit those hard of hearing in the long run.

Hurdles

“When I took classes in school it was difficult for me to keep up with the curriculum and I couldn’t rely on other methods I use to listen in class such as lip-reading. The experience lowered my confidence and instilled a fear in me of learning a new language,” writes Kirsten Brackett in her “3 Tips for Learning a Language with Hearing Loss” blog. This is an understandable fear. Learning a new language takes you out of your comfort zone, and the tricks and methods you normally use to communicate in day-to-day life may not be easily applied. This is doubly so for those with a hearing deficit.

Solutions

Kirsten Brackett outlined what worked for her, and it was all about finding what played to her strengths. She took it slow, determined the best resources to help supplement her learning (online classes and tests turned out to be really useful), and wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Repetition was also useful. “I usually need to hear a word multiple times in order to hear the sounds making up the word,” she said.

In an article on British Deaf News, the writer took a similar but different approach. “My support worker would point to the word as they said it so I could work out what the lip patterns looked like, and roughly what it sounded like. With constant repetition, like in English, I gradually picked it up.”

Lip reading didn’t help Brackett, but it helped the writer for BDN (though repetition assisted them both). What might work for one, might not for another. It’s all about finding your own way. For online help, check out Brackett’s blog, head over to popular sites such as Duolingo, or search for resources on Google. What’s available at your fingertips is endless, and with a little bit of research, you can easily find the one that best suits your needs.

Benefits

Learning a language is not only teaching yourself how to speak differently, but to think differently. Everything from Spanish to French to Latin to ASL requires you (and your brain) to grow and adapt in ways you might not have thought possible. It is a very worthwhile pursuit that can make you feel more confident in yourself and your roots.

If you struggle with hearing, the process can help re-wire your brain, helping you practice comprehension and retention of any audible speech. Your brain is a muscle, and learning a new language is one of the greatest workouts you can give it.

Speech and Language Development

Speech and language development is every parent’s first concern. How your child receives, processes, and expresses information can be a huge determining factor affecting the rest of his or her life. This is one reason why hospitals give hearing tests to newborns, and why parents are encouraged to follow up with additional speech and language tests in the following couple of years.

Exposure

According to the the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), development peaks early: “The first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills.”

So, during this time, expose your child to everything: sights, sounds, speech, any productive stimulation you can think of. Take note of what’s grabbing hold, and try to replicate any positive sight-and-sound environments. Developmental “…skills develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others.”

Speech and Language Disorders

Unfortunately, sometimes there are problems. So, what should you do if any issues present? Or how can you tell if there are issues in the first place?

Naturally this is a big topic, too big to cover in a single blog. But there are rough guidelines. The Mayo Clinic has a useful rundown by age, covering everything from speech sounds and simple word recognition (1st year), to imitation and actual speech (year 2).

If you notice anything wrong, or are worried about your child not hitting commonly accepted milestones, see your doctor! “Speech delays occur for many reasons, including hearing loss and developmental disorder,” the Mayo Clinic says, and you won’t know what can be done until you follow up.