What is Voice Therapy?
Voice Therapy involves a patient-centered treatment method to modify
vocal behaviors and eliminate voice misuse, manage voice disorders
non-surgically and allow for improved voice use. Voice therapy is often
recommended after a thorough examination of the vocal folds and
assessment of the functional use of the voice.
Voice therapy is used to return the voice to its highest and most functional use by (1) application of vocal hygiene principles to daily use of the voice; (2) a series of specific therapeutic exercises to improve voice quality and (3) application of voice exercises in daily speaking and /or singing.
What is vocal hygiene?
Vocal hygiene is a daily regimen for reducing or eliminating environmental and behavior al factors than may damage the voice. For example, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, exposure to fumes and chemicals and frequent shouting are some activities that may damage the vocal folds. Adequate water intake to lubricate body tissues, regular exercise and a well balanced diet are positive aspects of vocal hygiene and contribute to the overall success of voice use. Like dental hygiene, vocal hygiene is a daily routine to keep the voice functioning at its highest and most efficient level.
What is the "silent cough"?
The silent cough technique is a way to clear the throat without violently banging the vocal folds together. The silent cough is done by breathing in air and blowing the air out fast through your throat and mouth without making a sound. Immediately after the silent cough, you should tuck your chin down toward your chest and make a strong swallow. The silent cough often clears mucous that clings to the vocal folds or near them. The silent cough is an important element of vocal hygiene and helps to prevent unnecessary trauma to the vocal folds. It is especially important to use the silent cough after surgery to the vocal folds.
Is there a difference between vocal nodules, vocal polyps and vocal cysts?
YES! Vocal fold nodules come in pairs, one on each vocal fold, typically across from each other. They are sometimes called "kissing nodules" since they look alike and touch before the vocal folds close during vibration.
Vocal polyps and cysts are masses on the vocal folds that usually develop after trauma to the vocal folds either from severe laryngitis, singing, crying, coughing or talking excessively when sick. These bumps can improve with voice therapy and the voice may sound better after vocal hygiene and voice therapy. These lesions usually require surgical removal to fully restore the voice.
How are the polyps and cysts removed surgically?
When surgery is recommended to treat a lesion on the vocal folds, a general anesthesia is used to put the patient to sleep to prevent him or her from moving during the surgery. A small tube is placed through the mouth into the windpipe to allow the anesthesiologist to regulate your breathing. A high powered microscope is then used with special instruments to remove the lesion. Usually, the patient goes home the same day.
How does one find a voice therapist?
Voice therapists are speech-language pathologists (SLP), licensed by each state and certified by the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). Voice therapists specialize in treating voice disorders and may be identified through specific subdivisions of ASHA or by their continued involvement with groups, organizations and societies whose primary interest is care of the voice.
Are voice therapists singing teachers?
Most voice therapists are speech-language pathologists and not singing teachers. Singing teachers teach people how to sing and voice therapists help to restore normal vocal function to injured voices. Singing teachers have their own associations and are not licensed to practice voice therapy as a medical specialty. There are however a few singing teachers who are speech-language pathologists with a license to practice voice therapy and who also teach singing.
Can someone with a weak voice be helped?
There are many ways to increase the loudness and projection of the
voice. Voice therapy techniques which focus on building resonance and
loudness can be successful. If a vocal fold paralysis or vocal fold
atrophy is found, surgical corrections, some of which can be done in the
office are possible to improve the strength of the voice.