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"Remembering" Speech, Language And Hearing Health Of Canada's Veterans, Canada

May 24, 2017

Veterans' Week, November 5-11 - Every year in November, Canadians express their appreciation and support for the nearly 600,000 Canadian Forces (CF) veterans. Providing health care services to these veterans, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) works in partnership with health care authorities and providers to deliver a range of health care services including speech-language pathology and audiology.

The Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA) serves as a liaison between its members and VAC. CASLPA further facilitates collaboration between the provincial/territorial speech and hearing associations across Canada and Veterans Affairs. More than 85,000 participating service providers work with VAC, and audiologists and speech-language-pathologists play a key role in meeting the speech, language and hearing needs of veterans.

"In addition to disabilities acquired during duty, aging veterans can also have communication disorders or swallowing difficulties caused by stroke, head injury, Parkinson's, effects of medication, dementia or psychiatric disorders," says CASLPA member Gail Poole, speech-language pathologist specializing in adult and geriatric populations. "Preexisting disabilities may be intensified by these disorders as people age. A previously acquired disability, such as a hearing loss, may compound the effects experienced by a veteran from a newly acquired neurological disorder.

"Speech-language pathologists help to optimize veterans' speech and language abilities, independence, socialization and overall quality of life," adds Poole. "Speech-language pathologists provide assessment, treatment and management of speech and swallowing problems in many settings, including hospitals, outpatient and long-term care facilities, clinics, home care, private practice and rehabilitation centres."

The war in Afghanistan and other deployments are exposing many members of the Canadian Forces to the concussive effects of combat, which can cause hearing injuries. "We're seeing a growing concern among young veterans returning with hearing impairment as a result of repeated exposure to gunfire and explosive blasts," says CASLPA member audiologist Zofia Wald-Mroz, who works in an Ottawa-area veteran's health care centre. "Significant damage can be done to the inner ear as a result of repeated exposure to loud noise resulting in a permanent hearing impairment.

Explosive compressions can lead to physical damage of the ear drum or other hearing organs. Without appropriate intervention the communication difficulties can have a detrimental effect on a Veteran's quality of life and may impact negatively on the rehabilitative/reintegration process."

If a veteran in your life has a communication, swallowing or hearing difficulty they may be eligible for VAC benefits. CASLPA suggests contacting Veterans Affairs Canada for additional information about VAC benefits. Visit their website

With more than 5,500 members, CASLPA is the only national body that supports and represents the professional needs of speech-language pathologists, audiologists and supportive personnel. For more information about the role these professionals play in the treatment of communication disorders or to find a speech-language pathologist or audiologist in your area, visit CASLPA's website.