Rockville, Md — To reinforce the important messages about communication disorders during Better Hearing and Speech Month, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has released tips to help more than 70 million Americans age 55 and older identify and prevent a speech, language or hearing 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 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 American 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, consult a certified speech-language pathologist or audiologist.  Speech-language pathologists and audiologists play an important role in working with individuals who are 55 and older. These professionals can assist this age group in differentiating between normal aging and having a communication disorder.  They can provide tips and techniques to prevent communication problems and keep your speech, voice, and language in top form.

SOURCE: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association