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We often hear about Speech Therapy and Audiology, but what does it entail, and when is an assessment necessary? A Speech Therapist and Audiologist is a professional person, with at least a 4 year University degree. Some professionals are qualified in both professions, and others practice as either a Speech Therapist or an Audiologist.

A Speech Therapist is trained in preventing, identifying, evaluating and managing communication disorders, as well as swallowing disorders. They work with speech production (articulation, stuttering etc.), voice quality, swallowing disorders, language delay and auditory processing disorders (listening skills).

A common misconception is that speech therapy can only be done when children are older. Actually, therapy can be done from a very young age, and the earlier a problem is diagnosed, the easier it can be resolved. If you are concerned, phone a speech-language therapist, and ask their opinion.

An Audiologist is trained in preventing, diagnosing and managing hearing, balance and related disorders. They manage those with hearing loss and proactively help to prevent related damage. An Audiologist aims to determine whether someone is able to hear sounds within the normal range. If they cannot, they determine which portions (frequencies) of their hearing are affected and to what degree. They also determine the type of hearing loss, and depending on the result, would present the client with the options available to them. They may e.g. refer to a medical practitioner, or a speech therapist, or they may recommend hearing devices, like hearing aids, or assistive listening devices. Some of the causes of hearing loss are: congenital abnormalities, hereditary hearing loss, viral disease, noise damage, age, some children's illnesses, head injury, ear infections and excessive ear wax. A hearing loss could be present from birth, or could be acquired at a later age. It could also be temporary, e.g. in the case of an ear infection. (Remember that untreated ear infections or chronic ear infections could also cause permanent hearing loss). A hearing loss has an impact on many aspects of a child's development, including speech and language development, listening skills, concentration, academic achievement and social functioning. A hearing test can be done as early as a couple of days after birth, and the sooner a hearing disorder is detected, the better the chances are that your child can achieve their full potential.

WHEN IS A SPEECH-LANGUAGE THERAPY ASSESSMENT RECOMMENDED
If your child presents with any of the following problems:
1. Has difficulty pronouncing sounds, or substitutes sounds.
2.Has a limited vocabulary compared to friends/ siblings.
3. Can understand what you say, but they talk very little.
4. Uses gestures rather than words.
5. Has difficulty with sentence construction or descriptions.
6. Has difficulty following instructions.
7. Repeats words incorrectly (e.g. you say fat, they hear sat).
8. Stutters/stammers.
9. Voice sounds different (e.g. very hoarse, or very high-pitched compared to friends).

To find an audiologist in your area, contact the South African Association of Audiologists at 0861 101 924 or go to their website www.audiologysa.co.za. To find a speech therapist in your area, contact the South African Speech-Language and Hearing Association on 041 360-1908 or www.saslha.co.za


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