According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, more than 20 percent of consumers 55 years and older have a communication disorder. As people age, normal changes occur in hearing, speech, language, memory, and swallowing. Once an individual turns 55, their chances of having a hearing loss, suffering a stroke, developing dementia or Parkinson’s disease increases, which can lead to a related communication disorder.
Warning signs of speech, language, and hearing problems include:
- Sudden trouble talking, thinking, or moving parts of your body—this could be a sign of a stroke and you should see a doctor immediately
- Turning the TV louder or asking people to repeat themselves
- Trouble remembering appointments or how to do familiar tasks
- A hoarse voice or easily losing your voice
- Trouble speaking clearly that gets worse over time
Tips for preventing communication disorders:
- Reduce your risk for stroke—stop smoking, control your blood pressure, exercise regularly
- Use helmets and seat belts to prevent brain injury
- Get regular checkups, including hearing tests, to stay in top form
- Protect your voice—don’t yell or talk in noisy places, drink plenty of water, and avoid smoking
- Turn down the TV or radio when you talk with others—you’ll hear each other better and you won’t have to speak loudly
- Keep your mind sharp—do puzzles, read, and keep up with current events
- Stay active and social—do things with friends and get involved in your community
For most Americans 55 and older, unlike many disabilities, speech, language, and hearing problems can be prevented. The key is early identification and intervention; the earlier a problem is identified the sooner treatment can begin.
If you suspect that you or family members have a communication disorder, talk to your doctor. For more information about speech, language, and hearing disorders and prevention, contact the WCA Hospital Speech and Hearing Department at (716) 664-8194 or visit www.asha.org.