Global Health Issues in Communication Sciences and Disorders

Open Access
Powers, Colleen Marie
Area of Honors:
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Ingrid Maria Blood, Thesis Supervisor
  • Ingrid Maria Blood, Honors Advisor
  • Carol Anne Miller, Faculty Reader
  • Hearing loss
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Global Health
  • India
  • World Health Organization
  • Communication Disorders
The influence of a speech or hearing disorder on a person’s life depends largely on where they are born or live. In many countries, communication disorders are considered amendable problems, but in others, a person may be completely denied access to education and health services— limiting them to an extremely low quality of life. Hearing loss and speech-language disorders easily go unnoticed in regions where there is a lack of awareness of symptoms, including both primary and secondary behaviors, of individuals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates over 278 million children and adults in the world are affected by bilateral moderate-to-profound hearing loss and that two-thirds of all hearing-impaired individuals live in developing countries. The vast impact of hearing loss, the limited services available, and the dire need for education, prevention, and treatment of speech-hearing disorders was briefly observed throughout my time in Jaipur, India. This, in turn, became an impetus to survey 31 Speech-Language Pathologists, Otorhinolaryngologists, and Audiologists dispersed throughout India. Participants were recruited through the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing and the Indian Speech-Hearing Association, with the intention of gaining a better understanding of their current methodologies, perceived barriers to providing care, and overall job satisfaction. Based on previous literature, the most overt problem is the limited number of medical devices available, but through statistical data, I address the multifaceted concerns of South Asian speech-language-hearing professionals that are generally unreported. These surveys also tap into the level that Structural Violence—political, social, religious, or legal structures that limit individuals, groups, and societies from reaching their full potential—influences the delivery of speech and hearing health care in India. Survey findings overwhelmingly indicate that the top public health concern is a lack of access to services, followed by service barriers that arise from linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity in rural regions. Another major finding is that the Caste system plays a much more trifling role in effectively providing health care services than originally predicted. In the future, observing the needs that service providers and clients with communication disorders have in India could dictate the agenda for professionals who are interested in planning a volunteer or short-term service trip abroad, or for allocating funding to speech and hearing clinics in developing countries. Additionally, this data could be relevant to universities interested in global awareness and cultural competency within the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders.