Using an Ultrasound in Speech Therapy
Finding new ways to help patients who are suffering with a speech deficit is one of the most exciting aspects of the field. While it is always rewarding to use well established methodologies in patient care, it is the scientific advancements that bring renewed hope to patients and practitioners. The University of Cincinnati Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic has been using a familiar technology in a new way. They began using ultrasound devices to show patients exactly how their tongues work to form the sounds, syllables, and words they use each day. More than thirty clients participated in two week camps held in June and July as part of a continuing research project established in 2009.
Ultrasound and MRI Feedback
Part of the research project looks at the efficacy of providing ultrasound biofeedback therapy for adults and children who have a persistent speech disorder in order to develop treatment protocols that most effectively address the underlying issue. The researchers have also worked with MRI technology to obtain more complete information in the past.
Prior to advanced imaging technology, there was no safe and effective way to visualize the physical issues a patient was dealing with when they tried to speak. Without this information, it was often a matter of trial and error for the therapist to figure out the source of the issue and develop treatment.
In addition to allowing practitioners to see the cause of the issue, this sort of technology is invaluable for the patients as well. Ultrasounds have been especially beneficial in therapy settings for children and teens who struggle with specific speech issues. For example, a child who is having difficulty producing the “R” sound are able to better visualize how that sound is made.
This has been an especially difficult speech issue to address with traditional clinical techniques because of the multitude of ways the sound can be made. With the help of the ultrasound images, patients are able to see exactly what muscles they need to be engaging and they are given immediate visual feedback when they successfully engage the appropriate areas.
While the camps were limited in scope and duration, the results are promising. It is possible that over the coming years more practices will be able to implement imaging technology during diagnoses and as a part of routine therapy. The immediacy of the feedback as well as the visual nature has potential for a broad range of speech-language disorders.