UA is National Highlight During Better Hearing & Speech Month

April 30, 2001

One in six Americans has a hearing, speech or language problem.

A further sobering fact is that aside from these 42 million Americans anyone, at any age, can develop a hearing, speech or language impairment. Such communication disorders isolate people from others, and frustrate their efforts to learn and grow.

So during May -- National Better Hearing and Speech Month -- Arizonans should be cheered by the fact that the department of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Arizona consistently rates among the top ten graduate programs in the United States. U.S. News and World Report, for example, has just rated the program the sixth best in the nation.

Audiologist and speech-language pathologists on the UA faculty are nationally recognized for their programs and research that help individuals from birth to old age overcome or minimize hearing and speech problems. Professionals in UA's speech and hearing sciences department and National Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders have established innovative clinics and conduct cutting edge research to serve children and adults with speech, language, and hearing disorders.

The following resource list highlights some of the exceptional programs and people at the UA who help people of all ages to hear, speak and understand more effectively.

Grunewald-Blitz Clinic
"It just reminded me of Christmas morning every day, with the anticipation and excitement of what he was going to say each day, " said one parent who brought a child to the Grunewald-Blitz Clinic. The parent expressed appreciation for what others may take for granted -- the emergence of language in their young children. The Grunewald-Blitz Clinic for Communication Disorders (GBC) was endowed by the late Tucson philanthropist Abbey Grunewald, in memory of her grandson Nicholas Blitz, who had cerebral palsy and dysarthria. Each year since its inception in 1995, the GBC evaluates and treats hundreds of children with cleft palate, articulation disorders, slow language development, Down syndrome and other disorders that affect the ability to communicate. The GBC offers a communication lifeline to Tucson and southern Arizona communities by providing comprehensive speech-language pathology and audiology services. Children and family members appreciate the child-friendly atmosphere, including an outdoor playground area, dazzling wall murals, and vibrant Southwestern color schemes. The GBC clinic operates year round and serves as the primary training site for graduate students in the department of speech and hearing sciences. To obtain diagnostic or treatment services for a child with a communication disorder, call Lacy Enneking or Judith Gary at 520-621-7070 or visit the website

Hearing Clinics
The University of Arizona Hearing Clinics in the department of speech and hearing sciences have been providing evaluative and rehabilitative audiological services to infants, children and adults since 1963. All audiological services are provided by graduate students pursuing an advanced degree in audiology or speech-language pathology under direct supervision of clinic faculty who are certified and licensed. The clinics are newly constructed and are equipped with state of the art instrumentation appropriate for the identification and management of hearing loss in individuals of all ages. Ongoing research and community outreach programs are an integral part of the clinics. Community outreach programs include:

  • the Hearing Aid Bank which is designed to distribute donated hearing aids to low-income individuals
  • the San Xavier Indian Health Center Hearing Clinic on the Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation, which provides audiological services
  • the Festival of Hope, a large community services fair that provides health care and screenings, health information and referral, food, clothing and groceries to Tucson's homeless adults and children
  • Outreach programs provided by the hearing clinics reach well beyond our nation's borders. The Hermosillo Project is a UA department of speech and hearing sciences sponsored project that provides audiological services and hearing aids for 110 hearing impaired children at the Escuela de Audicion y Lingua, a school for the deaf in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

For more information contact Lacy Enneking or Judith Gary at 520-621-7070 or visit the website

Wings on Words
Where once there were hot wings is now Wings on Words. This preschool and kindergarten dedicated to serving children with speech and language delays is located on property that once housed a chicken restaurant. The Wings on Words Preschool and Kindergarten is located at 202 E. Speedway, just 6 blocks west of the UA. Its full-day program provides an enriched, language-based curriculum for young children which promotes a strong foundation for learning. The curriculum emphasizes oral language development because future success in reading and writing depends on a strong oral language foundation, and because good communication skills foster self-esteem and social success. Speech and language therapy is provided when needed as an integral part of the program. Among other innovative programs developed and implemented at the facility is the first conflict resolution program for preschool-aged children, "Talk It Out." seed money for the program was granted through the Pima County Attorney's Office, to develop a program in which young children learn to "talk it out" or use verbal means of resolving a problem instead of hitting, grabbing, or screaming. Tuition payments by parents cover preschool participation; speech and language therapy is free of charge, covered by fund-raising events sponsored by the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation. The school is Arizona licensed and DES certified. For more information about this innovative preschool and kindergarten, call 520-628-1659 or go to:

Aphasia Clinic
How do you help a once powerful business executive regain the ability to speak and communicate after a stroke? How do you assist loved ones in expressing their needs, wishes, thoughts, and personality after an insult to the brain robs them of the ability to communicate? The University of Arizona Aphasia Clinic was established in 1991 to meet the needs of individuals with aphasia, or difficulty with communication following brain damage. The Aphasia Clinic is part of the Adult Speech-Language Clinic in the UA department of speech and hearing sciences. Clinical services include diagnostic evaluations, individual and group aphasia therapy, and counseling. These services are provided by clinical faculty in collaboration with graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in speech-language pathology. For more information contact Lacy Enneking or Judith Gary at 520-621-7070 or visit the website

Lights, cameras, action - for nearly ten years, viewers throughout North America have been "tuning in to Telerounds." Telerounds is an exciting videoconference series produced by the National Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders at the UA. The Telerounds series is designed to meet the continuing education needs of speech-language pathologists and allied health care professionals who provide services to individuals with neurogenic communication disorders as a consequence of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and cerebral palsy. Typically, during each live broadcast, a clinical scientist presents a client (or clients) with a neurogenic communication disorder in a video "grand rounds" session. During the hour-long program, viewers have the opportunity to call in questions about the case(s) or the topic being discussed. To date, 60 Telerounds programs have been aired, spotlighting the science and scholarship available at the UA.

Kathryn Bayles, Ph.D., 520-621-1644,
Caregivers report that communicating with family members with dementia is one of the most difficult problems to manage. And for many years, it was believed that there was nothing that could be done to facilitate communication with and improve the behaviors of elderly with dementia producing diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and vascular diseases. However, recent research from Kathryn Bayles' Aging and Communication Laboratory has shown that in persons with Alzheimer's disease, different memory systems are affected at different rates through the course of the disease process. Knowledge of how these memory systems affect communication can assist caregivers in finding ways to support residual communication abilities and minimize reliance on impaired memory systems. Researchers in the Bayles laboratory are employing innovative techniques to support and enhance communication with impaired elderly. Bayles is a professor and head of the department of speech and hearing sciences and associate director of the National Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders. She is recognized as an authority on communication and cognition in normal aging and dementia.

LouAnn Gerken, Ph.D.520-621-4327,
The English word "infant" comes from a Latin phrase meaning "unable to speak," but it does not mean that infants are not acquiring language. LouAnn Gerken heads a National Science Foundation-funded project that focuses on speech perception in infants to discover when and how babies begin to understand speech. Prosody - things like rhythm, intonation, the melody of language - may be one of the important cues. Gerken uses interesting behavioral methods to test infants as young as one month old. Her research provides evidence that infants are extremely sensitive to patterns in their native language. Gerken is an associate professor in the UA departments of speech and hearing sciences and linguistics.

Audrey Holland, Ph.D.,520-621-3208,
Pelagie Beeson, Ph.D.520-621-9878,
On Friday afternoons, you can find Audrey Holland and Pelagie Beeson tending friends and family. These friends are individuals with aphasia and their family members, who for over 10 years have had a place of refuge and hope on the University of Arizona campus. They come to participate in the Aphasia Clinic, to receive treatment for their communication problems, to practice speaking, writing, and communicating, and to share their lives and future plans with others who care. Conversations typically begin with word attempts, but pads of paper and pencils also are used if individuals have difficulty saying a word. Holland is Regents' Professor of speech and hearing sciences and a senior faculty member in the National Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders at UA. She is one of the world's foremost authorities on the management of aphasia. Pelagie Beeson is one of the newest faculty members in the department of speech and hearing sciences but has been associated with the department since the 1980s. Beeson serves on numerous national committees to improve the clinical care of persons with aphasia.

Elena Plante, Ph.D.520-621-5080,
Can the same brain irregularities be seen in children with developmental language problems and their parents? New methods in brain imaging have provided a way of answering this intriguing question. Elena Plante has been studying the neurobiology of developmental language impairment and has been conducting neuroimaging research for over a decade. Her work is currently funded by grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the National Institute on Aging. Ongoing research involves morphometric analysis of structural MRI scans, fMRI studies of language in normal and impaired subjects, and electrophysiologic correlates of processing in normal and language/learning disabled subjects. Plante's laboratory supports structural and functional MRI studies that examine issues related to normal language processing or brain correlates of language disorders. Electrophysiologic studies are conducted in collaboration with the Van Petten ERP lab (Cyma Van Petten, Ph.D., principal investigator). Plante is an associate professor of speech and hearing sciences and also a senior faculty member of the National Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders at the UA.

Jeannette D. Hoit, Ph.D.520-621-7064,
Well-known actor Christopher Reeves now must use a ventilator to breathe and speak. Individuals who have spinal cord injuries or progressive neuromuscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) may require a ventilator to sustain life and support speech for many years. Jeannette Hoit is an expert on improving the speech of individuals whose respiration is supported by ventilators. She is an associate professor in the department of speech and hearing sciences, and a member of the neuroscience, motor control training, and National Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders faculty. Hoit's research interests include speech physiology as it relates to normal processes, particularly development and aging, and abnormal processes, particularly those associated with neuromotor disorders. She has published her work in journals such as Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, Journal of Voice, and Journal of Applied Physiology. Hoit is a certified speech-language pathologist and active member of several professional associations.

Patrick Finn, Ph.D.520-626-9531,
Stuttering affects 3 million people in the United States and 55 million people worldwide. Unlocking the secrets of stuttering is a mission of Patrick Finn, an associate professor in the department of speech and hearing sciences. Finn's research focuses on stuttering and two areas related to recovery from stuttering. One area involves looking at untreated or spontaneous recovery. This phenomenon refers to people who stuttered, but recovered without treatment. His current research focuseson two questions: How did these people recover and what are the parameters of their recovery? The second area involves looking at recovery related to treatment. He is studying a computer-aided, biofeedback program for adults who stutter in collaboration with stuttering research centers at the University of California - Santa Barbara and the University of Georgia. His main questions concern: What are the parameters of change related to this treatment and what is the clinical significance of these changes? The long-term goal of his research program is to develop a model of recovery from stuttering.

Julie M. Barkmeier, Ph.D.520-621-5699,
Professional singers seek her out, as do people who experience problems with their voice. Julie Barkmeier has had a lifelong interest in the human voice in healthy individuals and those who have had oral and laryngeal cancer, vocal cord paralysis, and other conditions that affect the mouth and neck. Barkmeier is an assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences. Research in Barkmeier's laboratory focuses on normal and abnormal laryngeal neuroanatomy and physiology. Barkmeier has also been involved in research on laryngeal motor control during swallowing, the impact of biofeedback on learning a laryngeal motor task in individuals diagnosed with voice disorders compared to normal controls, and long-term outcomes of pharmaceutical treatment of spasmodic dysphonia.

Brad Story, Ph.D.520-626-9528,
What do mufflers have in common with computer modeling of the human vocal tract? Ask Brad Story. Odd as it may seem, Story's work with computer models and instrumentation systems for designing and measuring the performance of mufflers (or acoustic filters as he prefers to call them) led him to study another acoustic filter system, the human vocal tract. Story is now an assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences at the UA. His research centers on the use of computer models to aid in understanding how the shapes, sizes, and movements of both the voice source components and the vocal tract contribute to the sounds of speech. To augment these models, his laboratory includes facilities for recording and analyzing acoustic, aerodynamic, and glottographic signals. In addition, Story is continuing a long-term project in volumetric (structural) imaging of the vocal tract using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Frances Harris, Ph.D.520-626-7530,
Decrements in vision and hearing are pervasive among the elderly, and some researchers theorize that hearing loss contributes to the development or exacerbates cognitive dysfunction in the elderly. That is why Frances Harris is teaching staff members of local nursing homes to screen their elderly residents for hearing loss and to assist residents once a loss is identified. Residents who wear hearing aids must be checked to make sure they are wearing their hearing aids and to insure that the hearing aids are functioning properly. A number of other types of devices to amplify and focus sound can be very beneficial in noisy nursing home environments. Harris is an associate professor of speech and hearing sciences whose specializes in hearing aid processing and on aural rehabilitation with adults who have hearing impairment.
*Special thanks to Cheryl Tomoeda, senior research specialist, neuro communications disorders, UA speech and hearing sciences, for providing information on these resources and experts.*