The Institute for Hearing, Speech & Communication Disorders
The Institute for Hearing, Speech & Communication Disorders at Sheba Medical Center is dedicated to diagnosing and treating conditions involving hearing, language, speech, and swallowing disorders. Patients of all ages, from infants to seniors, are treated with the latest techniques and therapies. Our specialized facility is the largest unit of its kind in Israel and includes Sheba’s cutting-edge Cochlear Implant Program, founded in 1989. The institute features a team of approximately 50 clinicians and researchers who lead the way in the field of communication disorders. Every year, nearly 25,000 patients visit the outpatient clinics of our institute, and we perform about 2,000 surgical procedures.
The Department of Otolaryngology, Division of Surgery at the Acute Care Hospital
At Sheba’s Division of Surgery:
- Our team consists of more than 250 surgeons and 500 nurses
- We have a total of 33 advanced operating rooms
- We perform approximately 23,500 procedures per year
- We provide treatment for 23,000 inpatients per year
- We care for 350,000 outpatients per year
The following departments are all housed within the Division of Surgery:
What services and treatments do we offer?
Our world-class team provides functional diagnosis and advanced treatment for a wide range of language, speech, hearing, and swallowing disorders. Services include:
Hearing tests are administered to evaluate auditory sensitivity. We check hearing thresholds at various frequencies, as well as the ability to differentiate each ear individually. When hearing loss is diagnosed, we perform testing to identify the precise location of the functional disorder or injury.
Hearing aids and implants can help people with hearing impairments improve their ability to communicate effectively.
- Hearing aids are sophisticated digital aids, tailor-made for each patient. A wide range of manufacturers and models are available, some of which are worn inside the ear and others are placed behind the ear. Our experienced specialists fit each individual with the most suitable technology.
- Hearing implants are implanted by a surgeon and customized and programmed by an audiologist. We work with a range of hearing implants, including bone-anchored hearing systems, cochlear implants, and middle ear implants.
Cochlear Implant Program
To date, approximately 1,000 children and adults have received life-changing cochlear implants at Sheba. A cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted electronic device that can provide a sense of sound for people who have a hearing impairment, especially when a hearing aid doesn’t help sufficiently. Each cochlear implant has two parts, one part that is placed under the skin behind the ear, and one part that is worn on the ear – called a speech processor. The processor converts sounds into electrical signals and conveys them to the implanted part of the device. The signals directly stimulate the hearing nerve. After the implant surgery, an audiologist programs the speech processor, and at regular follow-up visits, the pattern of electrical signals is tweaked so the wearer understands them as clearly as possible.
Communication, Language and Speech Disorders in Children
- Early childhood disorders: At a very young age, these disorders can occur at various levels, ranging from trouble with single words and simple sentences to difficulty with advanced language, such as word retrieval, interactive communication, and vocabulary. We carry out testing to clarify the child’s functional skills during different activities and types of communication. Treatment involves weekly personalized therapy sessions.
- School-aged disorders: At this stage, children can suffer from a wide variety of language skills, including reading and writing. Treatment is based on weekly individualized sessions that emphasize the interaction between spoken and written language.
Speech Disorders and Speech Intelligibility
Speech intelligibility refers to how clearly a person speaks so that other people can understand his or her speech. When speech intelligibility is reduced, the person typically experiences frustration and misunderstanding, and communication partners often lose interest. Most commonly, speech disorders that affect speech intelligibility occur during early childhood, expressed in the pronunciation of a particular sound or a general difficulty with producing clear speech. Diagnosis includes structured assignments and tests, along with assessments of spontaneous speech. The motor function of speech organs is also examined, and hearing tests are performed to rule out hearing impairment as a cause of the speech disorder.
Speech Fluency and Stuttering
A fluency disorder describes the inability to speak in a flowing, fluid way, such as:
- Stuttering, which involves a series of repetitions and pauses of what is being said. Sometimes, the person will also make accompanying clicks when producing words.
- Cluttering, which involves excessive pauses in the normal flow of speech. This disorder seems to result from disorganized speech, talking too quickly or in spurts. It often occurs in combination with stuttering.
Diagnosing a fluency disorder can take a few sessions, and special attention is paid to fluency in a variety of social situations. Treatment aims to promote awareness of speech difficulties and provide tools for clearer speech.
Voice disorders are when you have a problem with volume, pitch, tone, and other voice qualities. These problems occur when the vocal cords don’t vibrate properly, and they can manifest as trouble with producing voice, voice roughness, and feelings of fatigue when using your voice. Diagnosis involves an assessment of your voice quality in different settings, taking into account breathing, vocal effort, and resonance. Testing can be done with the help of computer software to evaluate sound and the function of the laryngeal muscles.
Swallowing disorders can occur in infants, children, and adults. In children, this problem may occur due to a refusal to eat certain foods. In adults, various medical conditions may be to blame, such as a head or neck injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s diseases, and other neurological diseases. Treatment plans are personalized and may include medication, swallowing retraining, dilation, botulinum toxin, surgery, enteral feeding, and esophageal stent placement.
Yael Henkin, MD
Director of the Hearing, Speech & Language Center
Co-director, Cochlear Implant Program
Prof. Henkin completed her doctorate in the Department of Communication Disorders at Tel Aviv University, and she did her postdoctoral studies at the University of Michigan in the US. She is highly experienced as a clinician in the fields of audiology, electrophysiology, and hearing rehabilitation with hearing aids and hearing implants. Prof. Henkin’s research has been published in many international journals and presented at many international conferences. In 2018, she was elected to head the prestigious 10th International Symposium on Objective Measurements in Auditory Implants for the first time in Israel.
Our Holistic Approach to Hearing, Speech & Language Disorders
Communication, listening and speaking comprehensively, is an essential part of daily life. When your ability to use language and interact with others is compromised, it can seriously reduce your quality of life. At Sheba’s Hearing, Speech & Language Institute, we custom design every treatment program with the goal of restoring your ability to socialize and function normally – expressing yourself successfully so that you are understood clearly. Our integrative services include psychologists and social workers to help with your rehabilitation, and every therapy is provided conveniently on our all-inclusive campus.