SPEECH LANGUAGE THERAPY & AUDIOLOGY

Audiologist and speech-language pathologists often work together to help people with communication problems as the inability to hear and distinguish sounds makes it difficult to learn new works and pronounce them correctly.

These professionals are much in demand today - especially speech pathologists.

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SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS  
AUDIOLOGISTS  
WORK ENVIRONMENT  
CAREER OUTLOOK  
 


SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS

Speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, and treat people with speech, language, cognitive, communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other speech disorders.

Some patients may not be able to make certain sounds or make them clearly. Others may be concerned with voice quality, considering it too harsh or having an inappropriate pitch. Patients may have problems understanding and producing language. There may be attention, memory, and problem-solving disorders. Speech-language pathologists also work with patients with oral motor problems that cause eating and swallowing difficulties.

Speech-language pathologists use written and oral tests as well as special instruments to assess and diagnose disorders. An individualized care plan is developed to meet each patient’s needs and progress is monitored. Families are educated as to how they can help the patient and cope with the stress and misunderstandings associated with communication problems. Speech-language pathologists also help families recognize and change behavior patterns that impede communication and treatment and teach communication-enhancing techniques that can be used at home.

For patients who have little or no speech capability, speech-language pathologists may implement augmentative or alternative communication methods such as automated devices, computerized technology, and sign language.

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AUDIOLOGISTS

Audiologists prevent, identify, assess, and treat hearing problems including balance and other neural problems. Hearing disorders can occur for a variety of reasons. Trauma at birth, viral infections, genetic disorders, exposure to loud noise, or aging are common causes. Audiologists examine and clean the ear canal, fit and dispense hearing aids, and offer instruction in speech or lip reading. They utilize audiometers, computers, and other testing devices which measure levels at which sound is audible, the ability to distinguish between sounds, and the nature and extent of hearing loss. The typical responsibilities of audiologists, as described by ASHA, are as follows:

  1. Test and diagnose hearing disorders in infants and children, as well as adults
  2. Prescribe and dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices and instruct people in their use
  3. Help prevent hearing loss through hearing conservation programs
  4. Work with adults and children who need aural rehabilitation services, such as auditory training, speech reading, and sign language instruction
  5. Conduct research into environmental influences on hearing, new testing methods, and new rehabilitative devices such as cochlear implants

Like speech-language pathologists, audiologists also determine and monitor treatment plans, counsel patients and their families regarding disorders and treatment plans, and discuss methods to alleviate the stress associated with communication problems.

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WORK ENVIRONMENT

Both audiologists and speech-language pathologists provide services directly to their clients. They may work independently or as members of a healthcare team that includes physicians, social workers, psychologists, or other therapists. Their job is not physically demanding but does require attention to detail and intense concentration.

As of May 2012, labor department statistics showed approximately 122,000 speech language pathologists and 13,000 audiologists working in the United States. About 69% of speech language pathologists were employed in educational institutions with the balance primarily employed in hospitals or medical offices. Audiologists were mainly employed in health practitioner offices (36%), doctor's offices (14%), and health or personal care stores (22%).

 

CAREER OUTLOOK

Job opportunities and employment for speech-language pathologists and audiologists are expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations in the future. Hearing loss is strongly associated with aging and our overall population is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of people over 55 years old. Our baby boomer generation is now nearing the age group that is most likely to experience neurological disorders and increased speech and hearing disorders. Medical advances are improving survival rates for premature infants, and stroke and trauma victims who utilize speech and hearing professionals in their recovery and development. Increased school enrollments, including growth in special education students, also are spurring demand for speech-language pathologists and audiologists.



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