May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month which provides an opportunity to generate awareness about the importance of communication. For many of us, being able to communicate with others is something we might take for granted. Being able to hear and speak allows us to communicate with others and is an important part of our emotional and social well-being. When we develop issues with our hearing or speech, it can prohibit us from communicating with ease and can lead to challenges such as social isolation.
In their 40s, adults may notice problems understanding speech, especially in noisy or busy situations. These problems usually increase gradually over the 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 types of age-related hearing loss. Type 1 hearing loss involves damage to the sensory receptors 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, understanding, 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.