Many believe that a speech pathologist is only concerned with helping those with difficulty speaking. However, this is just one small part of what these professionals do. In reality, speech pathologists play an important role in evaluating and treating a wide range of disorders that can affect your ability to communicate effectively.
ENTs, or otolaryngologists, are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the ears, nose, and throat. While ENTs are highly trained in these areas, they may not always have the time or expertise to provide comprehensive services for patients with communication disorders. This is where speech pathologists come in. By working together, ENTs and speech pathologists can provide coordinated care that meets each patient's unique needs.
What Do Speech Pathologists Do?
Speech pathologists conduct evaluations to assess a patient's abilities and identify any areas of concern. These evaluations often include measures of speech, language, cognition, and swallowing. Based on the findings of these evaluations, speech pathologists develop individualized treatment plans to help patients improve their communication skills. Treatment may focus on any or all of the following:
- Articulation. The way we produce sounds when speaking. Many children have articulation disorders when they have trouble making certain sounds correctly. For example, a child with an articulation disorder may say 'wabbit' instead of 'rabbit.'
- Fluency. The flow and rhythm of our speech. People who stutter may benefit from fluency-shaping therapies that help them speak more smoothly.
- Voice. The pitch, volume, and quality of our voice. Voice therapy can help patients who have hoarseness or other voice disorders improve how they sound when speaking.
- Language. The words we use to express ourselves and the way we put those words together to form sentences. Language therapy can help patients with receptive language disorders (difficulty understanding others) or expressive language disorders (difficulty communicating thoughts and ideas) improve their skills in these areas.
- Cognition. Our ability to think, remember, and pay attention. Cognitive-communication therapy can help patients with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, stroke, or other conditions that affect cognition develop strategies to compensate for their impairments and communicate more effectively.
- Swallowing. The complex process of moving food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. Swallowing disorders can make it difficult to eat or drink without choking or aspirating (inhaling) food or liquid into the lungs. Therefore, therapies for swallowing disorders often focus on teaching patients alternative ways to eat and drink safely.
If you have difficulty communicating due to a disorder affecting any aspect of speech, language, cognition, or swallowing, you may benefit from working with a speech pathologist. These professionals work closely with ENTs to ensure that you get the help you need. With their joint efforts, you can improve your ability to communicate effectively and enjoy a better quality of life overall.
Reach out to a center like Eastern Carolina ENT Head & Neck Surgery to learn more.