Oral muscles are integral to both speech and swallowing functions. Loss of skeletal muscle among the elderly is common. They hence encounter problems in daily communication and eating. The good news is, oral muscle weakness is preventable and reversible. Oral muscle strength and coordination can be improved by oral movement training – much like exercising biceps and abs. Speech therapists conventionally prescribe oral exercises to patients, yet compliance and motivation levels among patients have not been ideal. Elderly people often forget how and when to exercise, which hampers treatment outcomes.
To boost motivation and adherence, the team has developed a phone app “Oral Easy”, containing videos illustrating the lips and tongue performing training modules of different difficulties and training intensities. A notification function reminds patients to exercise, while the build-in feedback system allows clinicians and patients to keep track of the progress of the oral exercise.
Better motivated and guided by the app, the elderly shows improvement in their oral muscle strength, thus their swallowing ability and speech clarity. Speech therapists are supported by the software to know when the patients need help, as well as readily adjust training intensity and duration that can well suit the needs of each patient.
– Elderly people with oral muscle weakness
Chief of the Division of Speech Therapy, Kathy is a well-renowned speech therapist specialising in managing children with various communication and swallowing impairments. She frequents community settings to hold talks and workshops for parents and professionals alike. Kathy received her Bachelor in Speech and Hearing Sciences from HKU, and both her Bachelor in Social Sciences and PhD from CUHK.
Michael is an expert in ear, nose and throat surgery, with research interests ranging from hearing implantation, communication barrier to minimal invasive surgery. He has been leading the Hearing Implant Program at the Prince of Wales Hospital since 1994 and established the Hear Talk Foundation, a charity foundation for hearing and communicative disorders to serve underprivileged communities both in Hong Kong and China. Michael received his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and his Doctor of Medicine at CUHK.