Nasal Emission Terminology Should be Evidence Based and Consistent with Physiology and Perceptual-Acoustic Characteristics

Nasal Emission Terminology Should be Evidence Based and Consistent with Physiology and Perceptual-Acoustic Characteristics (1)David J. Zajac, PhD, CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow

Coauthor of Evaluation and Management of Cleft Lip and Palate: A Developmental Perspective

The term “cleft palate speech” has often been used to refer to hypernasality, nasal air emission, reduced oral air pressure, and compensatory articulations of speakers who exhibit velopharyngeal inadequacy (VPI). Hypernasality is defined as excessive resonance of the nasal cavity during production of vowels and voiced consonants. Nasal air emission refers to the audible escape of air during the production of high-pressure oral consonants, especially voiceless consonants. Reduced oral air pressure is the flip side of nasal air emission. When air escapes through the nose, some oral air pressure is lost. Thus, oral pressure consonantsespecially voiceless ones—may be produced with reduced oral air pressure and perceived as weak or reduced in intensity. Compensatory articulations are maladaptive gestures that are produced at the glottis or in the pharynx as a way to circumvent a faulty velopharyngeal valve. The use of glottal stops to replace oral stops is a classic example of a compensatory articulation. Hypernasality, nasal air emission, and reduced oral air pressure are passive (or obligatory) symptoms of VPI. This means that the symptoms occur as a direct consequence of incomplete velopharyngeal closure. Compensatory articulations, however, are active (or learned) behaviors and may not occur in every individual.

Although obligatory nasal air emission is a core characteristic of VPI, many confusing, overlapping, and inaccurate terms have been used to describe its perceptual manifestation. The literature is replete with terms such as audible nasal air emission, nasal turbulence, nasal rustle, and passive nasal frication. Because the velopharynx and nasal passage are complex anatomical structures— which may be significantly altered due to both congenital defects and surgical interventions associated with cleft lip and palate—the variety of terms used to describe nasal air emission should not be too surprising. Numerous other terms have been used to describe nasal air emission that is part of active (or learned) nasal fricatives and will not be discussed here. The reader is referred to Zajac (2015) for a discussion of active nasal fricatives as an articulatory error. Rather, this article will focus on terminology used to describe passive or obligatory nasal air escape.

A Brief History of Current Terminology

McWilliams, Morris, and Shelton in the first and second editions of Cleft Palate Speech (1984, 1990) described nasal air emission as occurring along a continuum. First, it could be visible but inaudible, detectable only by holding a mirror under the nostrils of a speaker to see fogging as a result of the air emission. In such a case, the nasal airflow is laminar, moving in relatively smooth fashion, and does not become turbulent, or noise producing. Clinically, visible nasal air emission typically occurs in speakers who have adequate but not complete velopharyngeal closure and normal resonance. Although visible nasal air emission should be noted when it occurs in a speaker, there are no treatment implications. Continue reading

The Changing Indications for Cochlear Implantation

Theodore R. McRackan, MD Otology, Neurotology, and Skull Base Surgery

By Ted McRackan, MD, co-editor of Otology, Neurotology, and Skull Base Surgery: Clinical Reference Guide

Cochlear implantation is the gold standard for treatment of severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Cochlear implants (CIs) were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1985 and have been suggested to be the most successful neural prosthesis created to date. Over 300,000 cochlear implants have been performed worldwide, with over 50,000 performed in the past year alone. Cochlear implantation involves a surgical procedure whereby an electrode array is placed in the cochlea of the inner ear, which is organized in a tonotopic fashion with decreasing characteristic frequency along its length. Modern CIs contain between 12 and 22 electrodes, which are spaced with the intention of each electrode stimulating a unique area of the spiral ganglia of the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants work by having an external microphone and an external processor convert an acoustic signal to an electrical signal. It is then sent to a speech processor, which is designed to enhance the signal and reduce noise before sending the information to the spiral ganglion through the CI electrode array.

Cochlear implantation is currently at an exciting time point due to the combination of improving technology and proven outcomes that has led to rapid expansion of its indications. The FDA approved the first single-channel CI electrode for adults in 1984, followed by the multichannel electrode in 1987. Cochlear implants were then approved in 1990 for children older than 2 years, in 1998 for children over 18 months, and ultimately in 2000 for children older than 12 months. There has been a recent push to implant children younger than 12 months due to evidence that children implanted at this age are more likely to catch up to normal-hearing peers at an earlier time point. Three major obstacles have hampered this movement. First, obtaining accurate hearing diagnostic testing in a timely manner can often be difficult in those less than 12 months. Second, there is a slight increased risk of surgical complications due to the low blood volume in this age group. Third, it can be extremely difficult to perform cochlear implant programming in this age group. Nonetheless, the clear benefits of early implantation likely outweigh these risks. Pediatricians, audiologists, and otolaryngologists are encouraged to identify infants with hearing loss as soon as possible for hearing rehabilitation. The earlier this is performed, the earlier children with profound hearing loss can be identified, and the earlier they can be implanted, leading to better CI outcomes.

Use of cochlear implantation in patients with residual hearing has been another area of rapid expansion. It was initially thought that all hearing would be lost with cochlear implantation and that if hearing was preserved, patients would not be able to process electrical and acoustic hearing. However, through the trials of the Cochlear Hybrid electrode and the MED-EL EAS electrode, it appears that both are possible. Through these and other trials, most patients had preserved residual hearing after cochlear implantation. Additionally, these patients showed improved hearing outcomes compared to patients without residual hearing. At the present time, it is not clear whether this preserved hearing is sustainable over time. This is an active area of investigation and will continue to be studied for years. Nevertheless, this technology has greatly expanded the indications for cochlear implantation beyond traditional candidacy.

As discussed above, it was previously thought that individuals would not be able to process combined electrical and acoustic hearing. However, cochlear implantation in patients with residual hearing proved this incorrect. This has led to the more widespread use of CIs in individuals with single-sided deafness. Current standard treatment for single-sided deafness includes devices that essentially ignore the deafened ear. However, with cochlear implantation, hearing can be restored to that ear. This was initially performed in patients with severe tinnitus in the deafened ear but is now being more commonly performed in the absence of tinnitus. Further work is certainly needed to develop a more comprehensive understanding of cochlear implantation in this population, but preliminary data show decreased head shadow effect and improvement in binaural summation, spatial release from masking, and potentially sound localization.

Beyond cochlear implantation, the use of auditory brainstem implants (ABIs) in children is another area of expansion. Although this has been performed in Europe for years, it is only more recently being performed in the non-neurofibromatosis type II population in the United States. Several centers have active clinical trials to perform ABIs in children unlikely to benefit from cochlear implantation due to either absent cochlear nerves or cochlear malformations. This is an unfortunate population as they have limited hearing rehabilitation options. Auditory brainstem implants provide an opportunity for hearing in this population, and the neurotology community is excited to hear the results of these trials.

We have come a long way since Bill House developed the first single-channel CI. As outcomes and technology continue to improve, the indications for cochlear implantation will grow. The audiology and otology communities are eager to see what the future holds for cochlear implantation.

About the Author
Dr. Theodore R. McRackan is an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Medical University of South Carolina. He received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and completed his otolaryngology residency at Vanderbilt University. Dr. McRackan then completed his fellowship in neurotology-skull base surgery at the House Ear Clinic. His professional interests include neurotologic outcomes and quality of life research. Dr. McRackan and Derald E. Brackmann, MD co-edited Otology, Neurotology, and Skull Base Surgery, which serves as both a study resource for qualifying exams and a portable clinical reference guide. This text features a concise and approachable outline format, contributions by leaders in the field, and key topics such as anatomy and embryology, hearing loss, cochlear implantation, skull base tumors, vestibular disorders, and pediatric otology. View sample pages and place your order at www.PluralPublishing.com.

Are Duty Hour Restrictions Making Residents Feel Better or Worse?

By Evan J. Propst, MD, MSc, FRCSC co-author of Airway Reconstruction Surgical Dissection Manual

In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) mandated an 80 hour work week limit for residents. In 2011, this same body mandated a 16 hour shift limit for first year residents. Both of these mandates were introduced to reduce resident fatigue with an eye towards improving patient safety, resident education and resident wellbeing. These regulations are enforced throughout the US and institutions can be fined if residents are found to be working beyond these duty hour restrictions. Continue reading

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