Speech Pathologists and Audiologists
On the Job
Speech pathologists and audiologists help people speak more clearly or hear better.
The ability to communicate is believed to be the one thing that makes us human. Basically, being able to talk and listen is what sets us apart from animals. It's true that animals have their own unique way of "talking" (ever see cats touch noses?). It's also true that humans and animals can communicate with each other - Koko the gorilla knows 1,000 words in sign language. However, humans interact with each other in very complex ways. We also tend to communicate about very complex things. Losing the ability to talk or hear, then, is obviously a very serious matter. This makes the job of speech pathologists and audiologists very important.Speech pathologists treat language and speaking disorders. They are often called speech-language pathologists or speech therapists. Audiologists treat hearing disorders and balance problems. They work to prevent hearing loss.
Despite helping different types of clients, speech pathologists and audiologists have common tasks. When they get new clients, they ask them questions to identify their problems. They collect information and arrange for tests. At times, they consult with other staff members to interpret test results. Once they have enough information, speech pathologists and audiologists decide how to treat clients. They monitor clients' improvement and revise plans as needed. They also keep records about clients.
Speech pathologists evaluate clients' ability to understand and produce language. They check clients' hearing because poor hearing can affect the ability to learn speech. In addition, they check how muscles are working. Some people lose muscle control because of a stroke. Others are born with a cleft palate or other physical cause that makes speech difficult. When they discover a physical problem in the structure of the mouth, pathologists may refer clients to doctors. Once they understand the client's problem, speech pathologists begin treating them. For example, they may teach clients how to make specific sounds. They may also teach sign language or lip reading.
Audiologists use special instruments to test how well people can hear. They check whether people can hear the difference between sounds. They also check whether people can hear quiet sounds or those that are high pitched, because these are the hardest sounds to hear. Audiologists may recommend hearing aids or similar devices to improve clients' hearing. They help clients get comfortable with hearing aids. In addition, audiologists work with doctors to determine if surgery is needed to help resolve a balance problem.
Audiologists advise employers on preventing hearing loss on the job. They test noisy work areas and point out sounds that can cause hearing loss. They also recommend ways to protect workers from hearing loss.
Some speech pathologists and audiologists research new treatments and write reports about their findings. Others advise teaching and medical staff about preventing and treating hearing loss and speech disorders. Speech pathologists and audiologists keep up with new developments by taking classes and attending conferences.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Interview and test clients for hearing and speech impairments.
- Interpret test results. May work with others on the health care team.
- Diagnose problems with hearing or speech.
- Examine and clean patients' ear canals.
- Develop and monitor treatment plans.
- Refer clients for further testing or medical treatment.
- Teach people how to make vocal sounds and how to improve general communication.
- Fit people for and help them adjust to hearing aids.
- Teach sign language and lip reading.
- Teach better control of speech muscles.
- Keep records of patients' progress.
- Research new technologies and treatments.
- May write reports and articles or speak at conferences.
- Take classes to update skills.
- Test noise at job sites. Recommend safety practices.
- Advise employers and community groups on hearing safety.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Document and record information.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Assist and care for others.
- Use computers.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Analyze data or information.
- Work with the public.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Process information.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Think creatively.
- Develop goals and strategies.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social interaction with clients, family members, and other health care staff.
- On occasion may be placed in conflict situations in which others may be rude or angry.
- Almost always work indoors.
- Are occasionally exposed to the diseases and infections of clients.
- May be exposed to loud sounds or distracting noise levels during therapy sessions.
- Must be very exact and accurate in testing speech and hearing problems and helping clients. Errors may cause clients not to progress.
- Repeat the same mental and physical activities.
- May work part time or full time. Most work full time.
- May travel to visit clients in remote areas or to attend conferences and workshops.
- Generally work a set schedule.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.