Sound advice for World Voice Day
Janelle Bowler is a local Speech Pathologist who is working with people diagnosed with Dysphonia. What is Dysphonia you say? Good question. In conjunction with World Voice Day on April 16 we thought we would spread some awareness on the condition.
Dysphonia is defined as ‘difficulty in speaking due to a physical disorder of the mouth, tongue, throat, or vocal cord.’
Generally, Janelle’s clients are referred by one of the local Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists or via their GP. One local client who needed voice therapy was Ian Patteson, Ian works at a large organisation and uses his voice for work fairly constantly.
Last year Ian was diagnosed with bilateral vocal cord haemorrhage when a very intense bout of coughing after a cold caused this damage to occur. With Janelle’s help, voice therapy and careful management of his vocal ‘load’ enabled Ian to regain his voice.
“I had a cold and couldn’t stop coughing, one morning I woke up and I didn’t have a voice. I thought.. hmm, something is wrong. I’ve had bad coughs before and I’ve been fine, so it was really surprising to me. Apparently, this time I did a good job at it,” Ian laughed.
Recounting the experience, Ian added, “It was shocking! I went to get takeaway for dinner one night and I tried to order, and I couldn’t ask for a takeaway, I had no voice! As I started to talk, I thought I can’t ask for what I want, it just shocks you! At work I’d sit there with a book and a pencil and people would say oh hang on Ian has an idea, so I’d be writing it down and giving it to them to on a piece of paper. It affects your whole life, even just the simple things.”
“I was always confident I would get mine back, but in the stage when I couldn’t talk, I often just sat there - I can image that having to do that for an extended period time it would affect their wellbeing and could even lead to depression.”
Janelle reports that there are many causes and contributing factors to developing Dysphonia. “These may include those who may suffer from physical changes to their vocal cords such as vocal nodules, Neurological conditions such as Spasmodic Dysphonia or Parkinson’s, complications after thyroid surgery or voice changes that develop as we age.”
“However, many of my clients do not have visible, physical changes to their vocal cords but rather have problems with the function of their voice, unknowingly using their voice in an inefficient way or constantly over using their voice (Muscle Tension Dysphonia).”
Janelle continued, “A client said to me last week and I would like to echo it, ‘Your voice is who you are, and people don’t realize that until you don’t have it - it’s such an integral part of you, and how you communicate, you feel like you’ve lost a part of you’ and that can have an immense impact on people’s wellbeing.”
“The specific exercises that we do change the way your voice is produced, people often get a sound that doesn’t sound bad, and so we take that ability, move it and shape it into eventually being able to become part of how you talk in everyday conversation.”
“Hopefully as greater awareness comes with occasions such as World Voice Day and voice awareness month (April), more people will recognise if they are having difficulty, and seek help earlier on.”
When thinking about the health of your vocal cords and prevention of Dysphonia there are a number of things you can do and or avoid:
Do drink plenty of water.
What’s good for general health is also good for your voice - adequate rest, sleep and exercise and Quit smoking.
Do limit your caffeine and alcohol intake as these tend to dry out your vocal cords.
Don’t push your voice and/or talk louder then needed for long periods of time especially when your voice is tiring. And don’t overdo excessive yelling, calling out or cheering on the side lines!
Do keep any reflux properly managed.
Limit throat clearing and excessive coughing.
Do rest when your voice is compromised with a cold/throat infection etc. Take time off and don’t keep pushing through.
Be aware of your stress levels and emotions as your voice can be significantly affected by these.
If you are worried about your voice, please talk to your GP or to a Speech Pathologist experienced in Dysphonia.