Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gadgets in My Profession: Speech Pathology

As a contributor to this blog, I hate to admit this, but I am not huge on "gadgets" and technological "toys." I have a simple slider phone which I use for calling, texting, and my alarm clock. Okay, occasionally I use the calculator, as well. I didn't own an iPod until Patrick got his Droid X and then let me have his old iPod Touch. Nothing new or exciting. I do, however, work with unique technology. I am working on my Master's Degree in Speech Pathology, and therefore, it is/will be my job to help people communicate. Often, this involves the use of gadgets that many people do not even realize exist.

One of the first things that a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) will do when they meet a client is a hearing screening. If someone is having trouble expressing themselves, it is possible that they are just not hearing what they need to be hearing in order to communicate effectively. One of the gadgets we use to screen for hearing loss is called the Audiometer. Whether you know it or not, you have probably all seen one, if only for a few moments. Remember when you were in grade school and you all had to have your hearing tested? You had to raise your hand when you heard the tone? Either an SLP or an audiologist (whichever was available at your school) used an audiometer to do that. It has the red and blue headphones (red = right ear, blue = left ear) and a few knobs that adjust the frequency (pitch) and intensity (volume). When screening hearing, you turn the audiometer on and set the intensity to 20dB. You screen one ear at a time at frequencies (500Hz = optional) 1000Hz, 2000Hz, 4000Hz. These frequencies are chosen because they are important frequencies at which people's speech is perceived.

If you don't hear one of the tones, you fail the screening, but don't freak out. It is really common that people miss a tone, especially if they have had a cold recently, an ear infection, or a lot of wax build up. (Clean your ears, people!) If this happens, the SLP will test again in a few weeks. If you continue to fail the screening, you will probably be referred to an audiologist for a full hearing evaluation to determine what is going on.

The first picture is closer to what I have used in classes, but technology is progressing so quickly, that now the audiometers come as small as iPods. Pretty neat!

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