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Arnold School of Public Health


USC Speech and Hearing Research Center improves patient outcomes through technology

August 19, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Angel Harvey was born hearing but lost her hearing due to bacterial meningitis right before she turned two years old. She had hearing parents and a sibling who wanted to communicate with her so she underwent surgery to receive cochlear implants and enrolled in Auditory-Verbal Therapy at the USC Speech and Hearing Research Center to learn to listen and talk.

Auditory-Verbal Therapy is a specialized type of therapy for children with hearing impairment requiring a specific international certification. It is offered by fewer than 10 providers in the state of South Carolina and fewer than 900 providers worldwide.  The Center, located within the Arnold School’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, houses one of only three Cochlear Implant/Auditory-Verbal Programs in S.C. with two practicing Auditory-Verbal Therapists and faculty members. There is also an Auditory-Verbal/Cochlear Implant special interest group for graduate students to gain additional knowledge and experience in cochlear implants and this unique type of therapy. 

These specialized services and expertise that the Center offers is clearly needed.

  • 95% of children with hearing loss are born to hearing and speaking families. (Flexor, 2010)
  • Hearing loss affects approximately 17 in 1,000 children under age 18. (NIDCD)
  • 1-3 infants are born each year in SC with permanent hearing loss. (NIDCD)
  • 9-10/1000 school age children have permanent hearing loss. (NIDCD)

Each year, the Center logs 6,000 patient visits and 225 patient outreach hours, providing diagnostic and treatment services for individuals of all ages who have communication challenges in the areas of articulation, fluency, voice, language and literacy, or hearing. Among their many tools to rehabilitate these patients, Center graduate students, staff and clinical faculty members incorporate the use of technology into their treatment methods.

For example, the Center’s first iPad was obtained five years ago with a clinical teaching grant through the USC Center for Teaching Excellence. The success with this device was so clear that the Center obtained additional iPads for use with all patients. Since then, they have also purchased three SMARTboards to use in therapy to facilitate individual sessions as well as group interactions with pediatric and adult patients.

“Our Center and department make every effort to be on the cutting edge of new techniques to bring to our patients, facilitating the best progress and potential,” says Jamy Claire Archer, a speech-language pathologist and clinical instructor at the Center. “We also use iPads for individuals who have other communication difficulties for myriad different reasons.” Patients with voice disorders use the iPad to speak into for visual reinforcement of the correct vocal production. Other patients, who have had a stroke or have a genetic condition such as cerebral palsy, may have lost their ability to speak. They use the iPad to “speak” for them by making selections and the iPad verbalizes their input.

Angel, who is now nine years old, is one of the many patients who have benefited from the Center’s progressive approach with therapeutic technology. She was one of the first patients to use the iPad during her Auditory-Verbal Therapy sessions. “Angel started therapy at two years of age, has never learned sign language, and now communicates completely verbally,” Archer says. “Her family is a true story of success at our Center.”