Each May, NIHDC and ASHA join forces to celebrate Better Hearing Month together. Committing to being proactive when it comes to our hearing health is vital for the overall non-verbal communication of a community or a country. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, or NIDCD, conducts critical research on the effectiveness of different therapies and interventions in speech-language pathology. This organization even helped lay the groundwork for American Sign Language, which many associates with Deaf culture today!
Untreated hearing loss
People with untreated hearing loss choose to remain isolated. They’re kept from their families and communities as they suffer alone in silence. Unwilling to accept the importance of hearing aids, people often pay a severe price physically, emotionally, and mentally. Hearing aids or other assistive devices can allow those suffering from hearing loss (in older adults especially) to connect to family, friends, and their community once again by allowing them to hear the world around them more clearly. However, for every four out of five adults with diagnosed hearing problems over 20 years’ old who could benefit from wearing a hearing aid, only one of them actually uses one.
Researchers are always working on new tools to improve life for people with special needs. In the case of assistive devices aimed at helping those who have strokes or neurodegenerative diseases which result in a loss of speech, one exciting tool being developed through early research aims to help patients work around their disabilities and regain some ability to express themselves. For example, one early prototype gadget could record brain signals which would offer the user a direct means of communicating through an electronic device like a computer.
Speech disorders affect a number of kids and adults with and without hearing difficulties. By the first grade, about 5% of kids are likely to have speech problems that can significantly hinder communication with others – for example by affecting how quickly they speak or their ability to pronounce certain words. A common form of these disorders is stuttering which affects 5-10% of children in some American states or cities. Although stuttering may end after a few weeks or last several years when severe, studies done by many independent organizations predict that 15-25% of people who stutter will eventually recover spontaneously as they grow older. Of those who do not recover naturally, research shows that the most successful treatment options are fluency shaping therapy and auditory feedback devices.
Hearing loss, voice and speech disorders, and language research are extremely important to society because they’re able to provide people with the necessary tools when it comes down to dealing with their hearing condition. For example, make sure you find out which type of device is most suited to help you. The NIDCD has shown us all just how important it is to have a thorough understanding when it comes down to hearing devices and technology.