A ‘Wave’ of New Technology
Often we take the ability to communicate for granted, but there are many individuals who struggle with this everyday task. Those who suffer from dysarthria know all too well how difficult getting a simple message across can be. Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder caused by damage to the central or peripheral nervous system, that results in impaired movement of the muscles used for speech production (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA], 2015). There are several different types of dysarthria each with its own unique set of deviant speech characteristics and underlying pathology. Because of the many different characteristics involved in dysarthria, it can be a difficult task to distinguish each clinically. Although the perceptual method of diagnosis, which relies on auditory perception of speech, is considered the gold standard, the use of assistive technology can also be a helpful tool in the proper assessment and diagnosis of dysarthria.
The world of speech pathology is quickly expanding as new and exciting advances in treatment technology are being made. These advances are integral in both the diagnosis and treatment of motor speech disorders. Dysarthria specifically can present with many deviant characteristics including variable rate of speech, loudness, pitch, and limited movement of the articulators. The job of a speech language pathologist is to evaluate the movement of the tongue, lips, and face as well as the patient’s voice in order to determine the severity and type of dysarthria. A recent advancement in technology made by Northern Digital Inc. has led to the development of a new instrument known as a portable electromagnetic articulograph. This instrument measures the points of interest on the lips, tongue, palate, jaw and face for tracking speech coordination, motor development, and motor disorders. The wave uses 3D electromagnetic tracking technology to track up to 16 sensors and an electromagnetic field to measure the articulators in real time. This instrument can also simultaneously record the sounds the patient makes while the movement of the articulators is being measured. The most significant aspect of this technology is that it is a portable system that can be transported to various treatment facilities, maximizing its overall accessibility. The more people that are exposed to this technology, the more clinicians will discover new insights into the speech musculature and its involvement with dysarthria.
Advances in technology in the field of speech language pathology will hopefully lead to improvements in diagnosis as well as treatment. Better assessment techniques will ultimately lead to better treatment, because clinicians will be able to tailor therapy to their patient’s specific needs. Once the proper intervention is in place, it will lead to a patient’s increased intelligibility and overall quality of life.