Southeast’s Center for Speech and Hearing Observing National Better Hearing and Speech Month

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In recognition of National Better Hearing and Speech Month during May, Southeast Missouri State University’s Center for Speech and Hearing encourages the local community to learn the signs of communication and swallowing disorders following a stroke and other illness, and to seek help.

The Center is located at 402 North Pacific Street, and operates under the auspices of Southeast’s College of Education, Health and Human Studies. The facility provides comprehensive diagnostic and intervention services for communication disorders – speech, language and hearing evaluations and treatment – for all ages within Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines.

Signs of speech, language, and swallowing disorders are common following stroke, head and neck cancer, and a variety of other illnesses and injuries in adults, said Amy Herren, clinic coordinator at the Center.

“Many people may not appreciate their ability to communicate until it’s lost,” Herren said. “From having your basic needs met to nurturing relationships and earning a living, communication is at the core. The Center’s speech-language pathologists can help local residents if they have concerns about themselves or a loved one.”

Speech and language problems in adults can result from various causes, including brain injury, stroke, and diseases that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Difficulties can also stem from breathing problems, cancers in the head or neck region, and voice damage.

Speech and language disorders that may be acquired in adulthood include the following:

  • Aphasia: This involves problems speaking, understanding, reading, writing, telling time or using numbers. Often misunderstood, aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke.
  • Cognitive-communication disorders: Problems with thinking and communication can affect each other. Some examples are difficulty paying attention, remembering, organizing thoughts and solving problems.
  • Apraxia of speech: Speech difficulties arise from problems planning motor movements. It is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that are involved in speaking.
  • Dysarthria: Speech difficulties, such as slurred speech, due to weakness of muscles involved in breathing or speaking.
  • Voice disorders: Changes in pitch, loudness and vocal quality that negatively impact communication. These may result from nodules on the vocal cord, overuse or misuse of voice such as yelling, diseases such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, and other causes.

The Center’s speech-language pathologists can also help adults with these and other communication problems, said Dr. Martha Cook, associate professor of communication disorders at Southeast.

May is also a time to spotlight swallowing disorders, called dysphagia, which are also treated by speech-language pathologists, Cook added.

“Dysphagia is another common side effect of numerous diseases in adults,” she said. “A person’s ability to eat and drink is critical to maintaining good health and promoting recovery from illness. Food is also a central part of many social experiences, contributing to an enjoyable and fulfilling life. Treatment can be truly transformative to a person’s quality of life and overall health.”

Speech-language pathologists treat dysphagia in various ways, including:

  • Helping people use their muscles to chew and swallow,
  • Finding better positions for people to sit or hold their head while eating,
  • Identifying strategies to make swallowing better and safer, and
  • Advising people on their dietary choices, including softer foods or thicker drinks.

To schedule an assessment, contact Amy Herren (573) 651-2803 or aherren@semo.edu.

For more information about Southeast’s Center for Speech and Hearing, visit https://semo.edu/commdisorders/speech.html.

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