Voicebox Part 1

by | Oct 23,15 | Speech, Voice Disorders

Speech is fascinating: how the human body physically produces sound, and how the brain orchestrates it. 

We use the same set of apparatus for both speech and singing – the lungs, diaphragm, larynx, vocal chords, and tongue to name a few. Not long ago I met with Speech Therapist Madeleine Ashton, from Voicebox, who specializes in the treatment of the larynx. 

Professional voice users, including singers, teachers, and public speakers can develop voice problems through extensive use of the voice. As a vocal coach my job is to promote and train singers in good technique and prevent problems from happening or reoccurring. If problems do occur a voice specialist speech therapist such as Madeleine can help. I met with Madeleine to find out more:

Maddie, what do you do at Voicebox? 

VoiceBoxBristol is a speech and language therapy practice focusing on laryngeal disorders, swallowing problems or any other problem related to the larynx.

What types of conditions do people come to you with?

A large part of my work involves people with Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD), which is basically when the muscles that control the function of the larynx and the vocal chords become really tight. This affects the quality of someone’s voice, it might become strained, hoarse, rough or they may even lose their voice totally.

What causes this? 

It can be triggered by a virus, but it’s usually a case of something tipping the balance, perhaps there’s a problem such as reflux, then for some reason they become ill or fatigued and it kicks their larynx into functioning in this way.

Why does this happen?

It’s like their vocal chords are working at 150% all the time.

It’s a functional disorder, but there’s often a psychological component to it as well, for example emotional stress or a background of anxiety, which is taken on at a subconscious level. The way the larynx is working is affected by the psychological issue.

There are also organic voice disorders such as vocal nodules, which professional voice users can get from using their voice a lot on a daily basis. It’s caused by the impact of the vocals chords – little calluses build up where the chords vibrate against each other.

How would you recognize if you had vocal nodules?

The nodules themselves can’t be felt, although there may be muscle tension, which can cause discomfort. Your voice would sound hoarse and would be diagnosed by a ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist. Voice therapy is important even if the nodules are removed because if the voice user doesn’t change how they use their voice the nodules can recur.

Want to know more about different therapies that can help voice recovery? Find out more in Part2… coming soon!