Audiology and speech therapy communication: The important human connection

Audiology and speech therapy communication: The important human connection

Rick, Mike

CAREER REPORT: Audiology and Speech Therapy

One of the greatest rewards of being an audiologist for Paul Farrell is “the expression of wonder and happiness on a child’s face when he hears the sounds of the world around him for the first time.” As director of the Maryland Hearing Aid Loan Bank in Baltimore, Farrell experiences such rewards often, overseeing a program that provides temporary hearing aids to infants and toddlers of uninsured or underinsured families.

Audiologists like Farrell are engaged in the scientific study of hearing and help to prevent and assess hearing disorders, as well as fit and dispense amplification systems such as hearing aids. Audiologists may also provide fitting and tuning of cochlear implants, lip reading training, and test noise levels in workplaces, schools and communities. Audiologists can work in many different facilities, including public and private schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, colleges and universities, and private practice offices, and provide hearing healthcare to a broad population of patients from infants to the elderly.

Along with speech-language pathology, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has identified audiology as one of the fastest growing occupations for the next decade. Citing technological advances, an aging population and a greater awareness of early identification of hearing disorders, the BLS projects a 45% increase in the number of audiology positions by the year 2010.

According to information from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the national professi on al association for audiologists, speechlanguage pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists, the median annual salary for certified audiologists (CCC-A) with up to three years experience is $42,000. Certified audiologists in administrative or supervisory positions may secure salaries in excess of $60,000, while individuals with a doctorate may earn more than $70,000 annually.

In order to pursue a career as a certified audiologist, one must attain a graduate degree in audiology from a school accredited by ASHA’s Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), pass a written examination, and complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical fellowship as well as 375 hours of supervised clinical experience. Students typically obtain an undergraduate degree in communication sciences, which pro

vides introductory coursework in audiology. Among the factors that influenced Farrell to pursue a career in audiology was the personal satisfaction he receives from knowing that he can provide a positive impact on other individuals and improve their quality of life.

“The best part of my job is that I can support, and serve as an advocate for, children’s healthcare needs,” said Farrell, who earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Howard University. “Children are a population that cannot yet represent themselves, and it’s a good feeling to know at the end of each day that I have made a difference in the world around me.” One of only a small number of African-American audiologists currently throughout the country, Farrell has worked in a variety of clinical settings during the past 11 years, as well as in private practice.

“One of the best things about being a speech-language pathologist is the variety of work settings available to us,” says speech-language pathologist Herease Frazier of the Chicago Public Schools. Like audiologists, speechlanguage pathologists can work in schools, nursing care facilities and rehabilitation centers, hospitals, adult day care centers, and private practice. Speech-language pathologists assess and treat speech and language disorders such as fluency (stuttering), language delays, and articulation problems, and work with individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly. Speech-language pathologists may also assist individuals who have had strokes or suffered other brain trauma re-learn language and speech skills, help individuals learn correct production of speech sounds, and work with individuals with swallowing difficulties. As with audiologists, speech-language pathologists are required by ASHA to obtain the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), which involves the completion of a master’s degree, a supervised clinical fellowship, and a passing score on a national examination.

“I chose a career in speech-language pathology because I wanted to work with people and to work in a helping profession,” said Frazier. “Since everyone needs the ability to communicate, the field of speech-language pathology appealed to me and has continued to be an exciting, dynamic and challenging career.”

Salaries for speech-language path-ologists depend on education, specialty, geographic location and practice setting. According to ASHA, the median annual salary for certified speech-language pathologists (CCC-SLP) with one to three years of experience in 2002 was $42,850. Speech-language pathologists in administration may earn more than $69,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, like audiology, the field of speech-language pathology will continue to increase rapidly during the next decade, with the number of positions expected to grow 39% by 2010. Particularly high demands currently exist for certified speech-language pathologists to work in school settings or who have the skills and training necessary to serve bilingual/multilingual populations.

“Working as a school-based clinician provides me with one of the first opportunities to influence future speech-language pathologists,” says Frazier, who has worked as a speech– language pathologist for more than 25 years. “I encourage students to consider more than job salary in their career search and instead highlight the satisfaction they will feel as they help individuals who are communicatively impaired, the great job outlook, and the many opportunities open to them to work as clinicians, university professors, or researchers.” As a school-based speech-language pathologist, Frazier assesses student’s communication skills and treats children from age three to 21 who have communication disorders, including difficulty pronouncing words, understanding language and expressing themselves, using vocal quality, or who require augmentative communicative devi-ces to assist them in participating in classroom discussions with teachers and classmates. Said Frazier, “The reward for me has been in the smiles I see on the faces of my students and their parents when teachers and their peers hear improved communication skills following speech and language services.”

In addition to working in clinical settings and schools as do Farrell and Frazier, speech-language and hearing professionals may also work in a variety of research settings including colleges, universities or laboratories. These speech, language and hearing scientists investigate the biological, physical, and physiological processes related to communication as well as collaborate with other professionals to develop approaches to diagnosing and treating individuals with communication disorders. Speech, language and hearing scientists generally have a doctorate degree, with salaries varying depending on experience, employment setting, and geographical location. High school coursework for those interested in a career in the professions should cover a broad spectrum, including courses in biology, physics, the social sciences, English and mathematics. Courses such as public speaking and psychology may also benefit students considering employment in the communication sciences.

For more information about a career in speech-language pathology, audiology, or speech, language, or hearing science, please contact the American Speech-LanguageHearing Association (ASHA) at 1-800-638-8255 (TALK) or visit ASHA’s Career Center at http://professional.asha.org. ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 110,000 audiologists, speech– language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.

Mike Rick is the manager of Media Relations for the American SpeechLanguage-Hearing Association.

Copyright Black Collegian Feb 2003

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