Better Hearing at CRMS
Chestnut Ridge Middle School Speech Pathologist Offers Hearing Screening to Teachers and Staff
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – May is Better Hearing & Speech Month, and a time for speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and audiologists to raise awareness about communication disorders. While standard for students, for the fourth year in a row, District SLP Kelly Brophy is offering hearing screenings to teachers and staff at Chestnut Ridge Middle School.
Hearing screenings are standard practice routinely performed on students by the school nurse in public schools. Brophy can remember having her hearing screened when she was school-aged, “but it wasn’t until and because I was in graduate school for communication sciences and disorders that I had my hearing screened as an adult.”
Brophy first offered screenings in May 2015 and explains that she found her situation to be commonplace — the vast majority of her colleagues at CRMS expressed that the hearing screenings Brophy offers each year are the first they’ve had in adulthood.
A hearing screening is usually a preliminary step in which an individual’s hearing is checked to see if further evaluation by an audiologist is warranted. Screenings are completed with an audiometer, a machine used to evaluate hearing acuity.
“It’s simple — I instruct each person to put headphones on and listen for tones at different frequencies presented in each ear,” Brophy said. “They raise their right hand if the tone is heard in the right ear, and raise their left hand if the tone is heard in the left ear.”
Each year, Brophy borrows the CRMS health office audiometer and schedules varying blocks of time throughout the month to offer quick screenings to CRMS staff. Brophy said the screenings were and continue to be very well-received.
“Everyone is always so enthusiastic and grateful for these screenings that take literally three minutes to complete,” she said.
Brophy noted that some people have expressed apprehension alongside enthusiasm to have their hearing screened.
“I often share what I discovered when I first had my hearing screened as an adult,” Brophy said. “I have a mild hearing loss in my right ear that impacts the speech frequencies.”
She explains that sharing her story, its impact, and how to compensate for it seems to be comforting or help normalize less-than-perfect screening results for some. Brophy uses a visual commonly known among SLPs and audiologists as the “speech banana” to illustrate the speech sounds the screening tests.
“For my degree of loss, I might have trouble hearing /s/ or /z/ sounds in noisy environments like a school cafeteria or at a restaurant,” Brophy said. “Those speech sounds are important for many communication functions, such as expressing plurality and possession.”
Hearing loss is an intangible difficulty many people don’t know they have. Brophy sprinkles in suggestions for hearing protection (such as while mowing the lawn) and insights into hearing and balance disorders like tinnitus (ringing in the ear) when colleagues show up in her speech room to take advantage of the offer.
“It’s beneficial to me, too,” she said. “SLPs are guided by the ‘use it or lose it’ neuroscience principle, so I get to use hearing science I learned about in graduate school, so I don’t lose it!”
For information on hearing and balance, visit: www.asha.org/public/hearing/
To locate an ASHA certified audiologist, visit: www.asha.org/proserv/
In the photo at the top, District speech-language pathologist Kelly Brophy (right) performs a hearing screening on Chestnut Ridge Middle School psychologist Emily Ruoff.
- WTPS -