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May 20, 2003

Clinic provides free hearing, speech screenings to public

From: Purdue Exponent - May 20, 2003

CAN YOUR HEAR THIS? 4-year-old Katie Mason holds her toy pig and listens intently as graduate clinician Kristen Witte screens her hearing.

By Kelsey Pithoud Summer Reporter

Four-year-old children pretend they are airplane pilots as they raise their small hands in response to tones heard through the headsets.

These children are not at pilot camp, they are getting their hearing tested for free at Purdue's Audiology and Speech-Language Clinics by graduate student clinicians.

"I love working with the kids, they're so fun," said Kristen Witte, graduate clinician.

By providing the free screenings, the clinics are helping the community.

"Itís a great service to the community," said Jacqueline MariÒa, associate professor of the Religious Studies program and mother of children who were screened at the clinic.

The clinics are providing free language, speech and hearing screenings to the public from Monday through today because the month of May is Better Hearing and Speech Month.

"We don't have to charge, and that's a real benefit for the community," said Lata Krishnan, director of the Audiology Clinic.

The goal is to promote public awareness and to educate about hearing and speech as well as to help prevent hearing and speech difficulties.

One benefit of hearing and speech screenings is early diagnosis. In children, it is quite critical to find out early because children are still developing, said Krishnan.

For adults, early diagnosis can prevent possible surgery. Adults who abuse their voices by yelling or talking louder than they should, for example, can form a vocal nodule, which is similar to a callus. It forms on the vocal cords when the voice is abused and can make the voice sound breathy or hoarse, said William Murphy, staff speech-language pathologist.

If the problem is detected early, voice therapy can eliminate the vocal nodule, but if the condition goes unchecked, the nodule can become hardened and surgery may be necessary to remove it.

Adults who are exposed to loud noises in the workplace should have their hearing tested, said Krishnan. If hearing damage has occurred, steps can be taken to help prevent further problems. Age is also a factor in hearing loss, she said.

When screening a patient's speech, there are many factors a clinician observes. At first the patient is asked to speak on any topic. The clinician listens to make sure the consonants and vowels are spoken correctly. The clinician continues to listen for an appropriate voice ó one that is not breathy or hoarse ó if the patient stutters, and if the patient has swallowing problems.

In children, the clinicians look for language development factors such as sentence structure, correct grammatical usage, and adequate vocabulary for the age of the child.

Based on their observations, clinicians make referrals.

For voice and speech sounds difficulties, patients are referred to the in-house speech-language pathology department for further testing. For swallowing problems, the patient is referred to his or her physician because they could be potential indicators of neurological difficulties, said Murphy.

When a patient's hearing is tested, the clinician looks into the ear for abnormalities, such as a hole in the eardrum, explained Krishnan. Then the patients are tested to determine if they can hear a variety of pitches adequately. Next, the clinician tests the outer and middle ear to make sure the eardrum is moving as it should, they check for fluid in the middle ear, and they check to make sure the ear is not occluded by earwax, said Krishnan.

For more information about better speech and hearing, contact the Audiology and Speech Sciences Department at 494-4229.

© The Exponent 2003