JABSOM Communication Scientists educate fair-goers about chemo radiation’s potential effects on swallowing and speech

Hawai`i citizens had the opportunity this month to learn first-hand about the treatment options and effects of chemoradiation therapy on speech, swallowing, and hearing directly from the State’s best-trained scientists in the field: those in our faculty and on staff at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Communications Sciences and Disorders (CSD) department.

Dr. Chiemi Tanaka, an assistant professor/audiologist at the department, Aaron Ziegler, an assistant professor/speech-language pathologist (both pictured here), accompanied by graduate students, represented the medical school at the opening day Science Fair at the new University of Hawai`i Cancer Center in Kaka`ako on February 23. 

Ziegler explains the connection between cancer and speech and hearing this way. “Chemoradiation affects the tissue in the mouth and throat. As a result, people who undergo chemoradiation therapy typically experience some changes in their voice and swallowing. Given these changes, speech pathologists are an integral part of the multidisciplinary care of patients with head and neck cancer.”

“One of the things that we also showed at the fair is how chemoradiation affects hearing, too, and how people with hearing loss perceive sounds,” said Dr. Tanaka. It is fascinating to see and hear what she means by that, because unless we experience hearing loss ourselves, it’s hard to imagine.

Dr. Tanaka points to an informative WEBSITE from the Better Hearing Institute which provides computer simulations of what people wth normal hearing would hear, for example, as a bird sings. With another click, you can hear how the sound is perceived by someone with various stages of hearing loss.

To learn more about our Communications Sciences and Disorders program, CLICK HERE.