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K-State researchers search for better way to treat auditory disorder

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at 3:46 p.m.

Several Kansas State University faculty members are helping children with a new approach to treating auditory processing disorder that they hope might create better results.

Debra Burnett, assistant professor of family studies and human services and a licensed speech-language pathologist, this year started the Enhancing Auditory Responses to Speech Stimuli, or EARSS, program. The Kansas State University Speech and Hearing Center offers the program, which uses evidence-based practices to treat auditory processing disorder.

Auditory processing disorder affects how the brain processes language. Children and adults with auditory processing disorder have normal hearing sensitivity and will pass a hearing test, but their brains do not appropriately process what they hear.

"A lot of therapy targets these skills," Burnett said. "It’s almost like relaying the road in the brain that deals with auditory information. For whatever reason, it didn’t develop properly, so the therapy is about reworking these skills."

Burnett and collaborators started the program after attending a conference for the Kansas State Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The conference included a workshop on ways to incorporate speech-language pathologists into therapy for auditory processing disorder.

"In the past, it has kind of been in the domain of the audiologist to do all of the testing and all of the therapy," Burnett said. "Speech-language pathologists have been involved in some augmentative therapy, but not in the core therapy. That is all starting to change."

Last summer Burnett and her colleagues decided to start a Kansas State University therapy program that involves speech-language pathologists. Seven children were involved in the program during the summer, two children were involved during the fall semester and one child has continued the program during the spring semester. The children all have been diagnosed with auditory processing disorder. They range in age from 8 to 14 years old and were from north-central Kansas.

As a result of the program, speech-language pathologists are able to take a more active role in therapy. Auditory processing disorder will still need to be diagnosed by an audiologist, Burnett said, but now speech therapists can be more actively involved in administering and interpreting interventions.

"There is a direct benefit to the children diagnosed because of the service," Burnett said. "I think it’s a large role of a university to get the latest practices out to the community. It fills the need for the population itself, but also for our field to get more people involved."

The researchers plan to continue offering and fine-tuning the therapy. They currently are preparing the program results for a research publication.

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