What's in a Voice?

Polly Ubben is a Speech Therapist at our St. Elizabeth Sports & Physical Therapy-Southwest location in Lincoln.  Polly has over 25 years experience in a variety of settings and specializes in laryngectomee patients.

What do you use your voice for on a daily basis? Talking to your friends and your family, cheering on your favorite team (or yelling at the TV). Maybe the most aware you are of your voice is when you are singing to entertain others, or maybe just singing along to your favorite song while listening to it on the radio. What if you have to call 911 or maybe just laugh at a good joke?

We can take our voices for granted… until we lose our voices. Voice prints, just like fingerprints are individual to every person. Voice conveys meaning, emotion and even health status. Hormone changes, development and aging as well as illnesses and neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, environment, diet and misuse can all influence the sound of our voices.

The vocal folds are part of a complex system of tiny muscles, joints and nerves covered by a very delicate mucosal layer that can be prone to injury by overuse, abuse or exposure to stomach acid. Did you know voice therapy with a speech pathologist can help with voice production and quality?  Therapy is tailored to each person. Some sessions focus on breath support or reducing muscle tension in the vocal system while others may need vocal strengthening exercises.

In addition to voice production, a condition known as Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) can cause asthma like symptoms or even a chronic cough caused by tightening in the throat during breathing. This can be triggered by stress, irritants such as reflux, and post nasal drip for allergies. Symptoms improve with trigger identification/control and a VCD breathing release technique can improve the dynamics of breathing while alleviating laryngeal tightening.

If you notice a change in your voice quality, volume or pitch or are having issues with periodic changes in breathing associated with tightening in your throat, discuss this with your doctor. Seeing an ear, nose and throat physician can help diagnose the problem and assist with referral to speech/voice therapy.