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Aging and Disorders of Communication

2.1 Contact Hours
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe the types of speech and hearing disorders that affect communication in aging adults.
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Communication links all human beings together. As individuals age, their ability to perceive information through their senses is often distorted or impaired. Age-related sensory changes impact the quality of life and the quality of communication. Age-related sensory changes impact the quality of life and the quality of communication. Aging adults must compensate for these changes and families must be sensitive to the often silent process of sensory deterioration in their aging family member.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe disorders of vocal abuse and misuse.
  • Describe symptoms of vocal cord paralysis.
  • Describe a common fluency problem.
  • State the two main types of aphasias.
  • Differentiate between Wernicke's aphasia, anomic aphasia, Broca's aphasia, and global aphasia.
  • List ways for family members to communicate effectively with the aphasic individual.
  • Describe the process of hearing.
  • Identify causes of hearing loss.
  • Describe types of hearing loss.
  • Describe other causes of communication disorders, including traumatic brain injuries, cerebrovascular accidents, and environmental injuries due to noise
  • Examine several types of effective interventions used for individuals with communication disorders, including augmentation and alternative communication, sign language, assistive listening devices, cochlear implants, and adult aural rehabilitation.
  • State the role of the health care provider in the detection and prevention of communication disorders.


Communication is the element that links all human beings together. True communication is spontaneous and unique and involves all the senses.

As individuals age, their ability to perceive the information received through their senses is often distorted or impaired. Age-related sensory changes can tremendously impact the quality of life and the quality of communication for older adults. Aging adults must find ways to compensate for these changes, and families need to be particularly sensitive to the often silent process of sensory deterioration in their aging family member.

The healthcare provider is a critical component in the prevention, assessment, intervention, and evaluation of age-related sensory changes and resulting communication disorders. 


The term communication disorders encompasses a range of conditions in language, speech, and hearing. A communication disorder is an impairment in the ability to receive, send, process, and comprehend concepts or verbal, nonverbal, or graphic symbol systems. A communication disorder can be evident in the processes of hearing, language, and/or speech and range in severity from mild to profound. It may be developmental or acquired and may result in a primary disability or be secondary to other disabilities. Individuals can have one or any combination of communication disorders (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA], 1993).

  • Speech disorders are impairments of the articulation of speech sounds, fluency, and/or voice and include:
    • Articulation disorders—atypical production of speech sounds characterized by substitutions, omissions, additions, or distortions that may interfere with intelligibility.
    • Fluency disorders—interruptions in the flow of speaking characterized by atypical rate, rhythm, and repetitions in sounds, syllables, words, or phrases (often accompanied by excessive tension, struggle behavior, and secondary mannerisms).
    • Voice disorders—characterized by the abnormal production and/or absences of voice quality, pitch, loudness, resonance, and/or duration inappropriate for an individual’s age and/or gender.
  • Language disorders are impaired comprehension and/or use of spoken, written, and/or other symbol systems. The disorder can involve the form of language, the content of the language (semantics), and/or the function of language in communication.
  • Hearing disorders are the result of impaired auditory sensitivity of the physiological auditory system and can limit the development, comprehension, production, and/or maintenance of speech and/or language. Individuals with this type of disorder are often described as deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Central auditory processing disorders (CAPD) are deficits in the information process of audible signals that cannot be attributed to impaired peripheral hearing sensitivity or intellectual impairment. This involves the listener’s ability to hear, discriminate, or identity sounds; store and retrieve information efficiently; or attach meaning to a stream of sounds.

Communication disorders result from many factors, including diseases, medications, tumors, the aging process, trauma, and environmental factors such as noise. Communication disorders can dramatically change an individual’s life. The affected person often feels frustrated, angry, or isolated from family, friends, or the community.

This next section describes some of the most common types of language, speech, and hearing disorders and discusses the diagnosis and treatment of each.

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Domain of OT

Course Expires:

March 18, 2021

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.