Speech and hearing: Our communication gateway

Our ability to hear and speak allows us to communicate with others, which is an important part of our emotional and social well-being. Issues with our hearing or speech that prohibit us from communicating can pose significant challenges such as social isolation.


In their 40s, adults may begin to notice problems understanding speech, especially in noisy or busy situations. These problems usually increase gradually over years or decades before a clinically significant hearing loss is diagnosed. Some people will have more problems than other people because they may be developing different type(s) of age-related hearing loss. Type 1 hearing loss involves damage to the outer hair cells in the inner ear, type 2 involves changes in the blood supply to the inner ear, and type 3 involves damage to the nerves connecting the ear to the brain.


Even before an older adult develops clinically significant hearing loss, there can be age-related declines in hearing that increase problems understanding, focusing attention on, and remembering information during conversation. It may seem like other people are mumbling or that it is easy to hear in some situations but almost impossible in other situations.


For some older adults, challenges with speech may be the result of a stroke or a head injury. ‘Aphasia’ is the term for language difficulties – including trouble speaking, listening and understanding, and reading and writing after experiencing a stroke. The good news is that speech and language therapy can help speed up the recovery process.


To learn more about speech and hearing, read through our resources below.

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