What to expect at a voice center

If you need a voice check-up, your visit likely will be in three parts: a medical history; examination of the vocal folds; and voice assessment and possible treatment. At your check-up, it is important to give detailed information on overall health status, medications, allergies, voice use, eating habits, sleep patterns and any concerns you may have. Even subtle clues could be at the root of a voice disorder.

videostroboscopy

Your vocal folds will likely be examined via videostroboscopy, a tool used to view the vocal folds in motion. This amazing instrument allows your otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) to get a good look at your larynx, and especially, your vocal folds. Although it's a bit awkward, the patient can make a few sounds (usually, an "ee") so that the doctor and speech-language pathologist can see the vocal folds in motion. A permanent, digital record of the exam is usually stored as part of your medical record.

What's voice therapy? Teaching people how to correctly use their voices is nothing new. Vocal pedagogy — for actors and singers — originated in the middle ages. Teachers who knew nothing about vocal anatomy advised students based upon what they saw and heard. The result: an emphasis on articulation, pitch, projection and proper breathing techniques. Modern speech-language pathologists can use those same elements — along with ever-increasing scientific and medical knowledge of the voice -- to provide care. Ideally, the speech-language pathologist focuses on habilitation (optimal usage of the voice under less than ideal circumstances) as well as rehabilitation (repair).

Phonosurgery: Surgery performed to improve the voice is called phonosurgery. Its success is highly correlated with the experience of the surgeon. Physicians specializing in ear-nose-throat conditions (otolaryngologists), AND sub-specializing in voice surgeries are called laryngologists.

Surgery is appropriate for only some voice patients, usually if:

  • visible lesions are diagnosed;
  • the lesions don't respond to therapy;
  • the lesions don't respond to therapy;
  • the post-therapy impairment is unacceptable to the patient;
  • the client and voice team believe the surgery can help.

Phonosurgeries are often: laryngeal microsurgery (removal of small lesions); or medialization surgery (moving and/or injecting material to improve closure of the paired vocal folds).