The Brain and Speech, Language, and Hearing Disorders
The brain, our command center responsible for understanding all things in our world, is so sensitive, interconnected, and vulnerable. When something happens within the brain, whether that is an outside intrusion or a function of an internal condition like a disease, normal function is often interrupted. Those functional short falls, no matter the result, shake up life and decrease quality of life.
Being able to let others know what you want and need is vital to being able to live well. Understanding what is happening and knowing where to get help can make things easier. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what happens to the ability to communicate after many types of brain incidents and look at where to find the help you need.
The physical and functional ties between speech and hearing/ language processing are extremely strong and interconnected. Brain anatomy confirms this: speech and language are controlled by two areas in the brain, both located next to the brain’s auditory cortex where sounds and frequencies are processed and interpreted. Wernicke’s area, the language center, is critical for speech comprehension. Broca’s area is responsible for controlling the motor elements that allow us to form words and be understood. Those three interdependent parts of the brain — the auditory cortex, Wernricke’s area, and Broca’s area –cover a lot of real estate in the actively functioning brain. Logically that means that even if the trauma did not start in any of those areas, if the event is big enough — like a stroke or the deterioration that happens with diseases like Alzheimer’s– speech, language, and hearing just might be impaired.
So what does that mean? During an assault on the brain, the flow of chemicals and electrical activity is shut off or shut down at least temporarily, killing neurons in that path. Damage to neurons in 1, 2, or all 3 of those speech, hearing, and language areas can spread and cause all kinds of communication problems. In all reality, it does not matter if the problems stem from the mechanics of forming word or making sounds (apraxia, dysarthria), hearing the words, or understanding/recalling the words (aphasia) — communication suffers.
Finding a professional to help figure out the root of the problem is very important. The best resource is on the American Speech and Hearing Association’s website: Find a Pro. Seeking professional advice can change the quality of your life and make recovery a bit less stressful.
Some speech disorders like stuttering, however, might be genetic or triggered by an event, not a trauma – no one really knows. Those too can be treated. Senator John Glenn’s wife Anne Glen, is one of those people who experts believe might have inherited her stuttering from her father. She has gone from a stutter to a beautiful public speaker with the help of Speech and Language professions. Here is her story.
Even though I wrote this piece while participating in a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf of ASHA and received payment for my participation, I jumped at the chance to shed light on all the work that ASHA is doing to help those with speech disorders, especially those brain related conditions, and will continue to do so. Needless to say, all opinions stated within are my own – wouldn’t have it any other way.