Date of Award

Spring 2-7-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Health Sciences

Department

Health and Medical Sciences

Advisor

Venugopal Balasubramanian, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lawrence Weinberger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deborah R. Welling, Au.D.

Committee Member

Genevieve Pinto Zipp, Ed.D.

Keywords

Blast Traumatic Brain Injury, auditory processing, attention, inferencing, ambiguity, figurative language

Abstract

Our servicemen and women are facing challenges with reintegration into civilian life as noted by the high levels of homelessness, unemployment, and suicide. Behavioral aspects and PTSD have been the focus of these problems. There may be additional factors that negatively impact successful reintegration. There may be weaknesses in communication skills such as auditory processing deficits and higher-level language deficits secondary to blast exposure. Twelve veterans with history of blast exposure and six veteran controls were compared in areas of auditory processing, higher-level language skills (inferencing, ambiguity, figurative language), and attention, memory, and visual processing speed. Correlations with auditory processing and higher-level language and cognitive skills were also explored. Results demonstrated significance with attention (p = 0.001), time compressed sentences (p = 0.02), and for the veterans who wear not wearing their helmets at the time of blast exposure demonstrated additional significance with inferencing (p = 0.04), and auditory figure ground (p = 0.05). Weaknesses were noted with competing words (p = 0.08) and multiple meanings (p = 0.08). Strong and moderate correlations were observed with veterans who were not wearing their upgraded helmet at the time of blast exposure. Results suggest a need to include speech pathologists as part of the diagnostic team for our returning servicemen that were exposed to blasts, especially if they were not wearing their upgraded helmet at the time of exposure, so as to rule out any deficits with higher-level language skills, or auditory processing deficits.

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