What’s going on with my voice? Videostroboscopy can help!

Is your voice not what it used to be?

Are you losing your voice frequently, experiencing hoarseness, or persistent strain?

Has an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) indicated that nothing is wrong with your vocal cords themselves?

A videostroboscopy assessment will provide a more detailed analysis of your vocal cords while you are producing sound and will help give you information on what is causing your voice issues so that changes can be made.

What Exactly is Videostroboscopy?

Videostroboscopy is a much more sensitive tool and more helpful in identifying subtle issues happening with the voice compared to other techniques, such as rigid or flexible transnasal laryngoscopy with continuous light sources (these tools are used through the nasal cavity). Videostroboscopy (through the mouth) provides a more detailed view than these other techniques and can reveal problems with the vocal cords such as growths, or irregularities in the vibration pattern or movement of the cords themselves.  Muscles surrounding the cords are viewed to see if they are working when voicing occurs.  The color of the cords and surrounding muscles is viewed to see if there is redness or swelling, and you can see if one cord is engaging more than another to make the voice work.  Videostroboscopy provides key elements in voice assessment to assist in a plan for voice recovery.

How Does Videostroboscopy Work?

Videostroboscopy uses a flashing light source to create a slow motion view of vocal cord vibration. Vocal cord vibration is very fast – the “slow motion” view is actually taken from many successive rounds of vibration. This unique viewing allows the voice care team to look at how each vocal cord vibrates during the different phases of the vocal cord’s vibration cycle, allowing for clear identification of smaller abnormalities in vocal cord movement that are unable to be observed using any other technique. From this information, therapy sessions to improve voice use can be prepared so that your intervention can be individualized and suited to your own specific needs.

Here is an example of a videostroboscopy analysis and how it looks when the vocal cords are viewed this way.

Who is a Candidate for Videostroboscopy?

Videostroboscopy is highly recommended when a voice disorder is due to abnormalities that affect vocal cord vibration. These abnormalities can include:

  • vocal cord scarring
  • a mass (cyst, polyp, nodule)
  • incomplete closure of the vocal cords
  • abnormal vocal cord vibration
  • asymmetrical/uneven movement of the vocal cords

At S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks we have a comprehensive Voice Lab where our voice team will assess your needs using both instrumental and non-instrumental equipment.  Our Voice Lab offers state-of-the-art videostroboscopy equipment to fully analyze your vocal issues.  Call us today or check out our voice lab for more information.

LindaSaarenvirta-220Linda Saarenvirta is a speech-language pathologist who has been practicing for over 20 years in the healthcare field.  She has worked with a variety of communication disorders and clients of all ages.  She is extremely passionate about voice therapy and enjoys helping clients achieve their vocal needs.  Her client centered approach to therapy ensures all clients maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

I’ve had voice loss for 2 weeks! What Can I do?

Losing your voice can be a scary thing.  Voice loss or laryngitis happens when your vocal cords become inflamed from overuse, infection, or irritation.  If you’re wondering about the severity of your voice loss, the Mayo Clinic has excellent information on symptoms and causes.

If you experience voice loss (laryngitis) for 2 weeks or longer, you should seek medical advice from an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) to examine the cause of the persistent voice loss.

Short-Term Tips for Managing Your Voice Loss

Below are some tips to help reduce the strain associated with voice loss while awaiting your appointment with the ENT:

  • Vocal rest- try not to use your voice as much as you typically do, however, do not whisper as that can be more harmful than shouting.
  • Avoid calling out and yelling- walk to the person who you are talking to
  • Drink lots of water- keep hydrated
  • Manuka honey and ginger are great for the voice and soothing to have when the voice is not at its best.
  • Avoid singing and throat clearing as they can be harmful to the voice when it is already in a weakened state.

What if the ENT recommends speech therapy for the voice loss?

If speech therapy is recommended for the voice loss, you will be referred directly to a qualified speech pathologist with experience in voice disorders.  The speech pathologist will complete an assessment and set goals to get your voice back on track.

Exercises may focus on the following areas depending on your specific type of voice loss:

  • Reduction of tension in the larynx (area where the vocal cords are housed)
  • Improving the tone of the voice (may sound rough, raspy, hoarse when you are experiencing voice loss)
  • Improving the pitch of the voice (how high or low the voice is)
  • Altering diet to reduce symptoms of acid reflux
  • Reducing hard contacts of the vocal cords when voicing, so that the voice starts easily and gently
  • Relaxation exercises to help alleviate stress and strain

How long will it take to improve my voice loss?

Everyone is different with respect to their vocal use and musculature, so it is tricky to put an exact time frame to the therapy.  Typically you will see vocal improvements in 6-10 sessions; you may need some maintenance sessions to keep up with the new strategies and improved way of using your voice.

At SpeechWorks, we have a fully equipped voice lab with videostrobscopy analysis to view your vocal cords when you are speaking and computer equipment that allows us to track your progress in therapy.  Call us or check out our voice lab for more information! We would be happy to help you with your vocal needs.

LindaSaarenvirta-220Linda Saarenvirta is a speech-language pathologist who has been practicing for over 20 years in the healthcare field.  She has worked with a variety of communication disorders and clients of all ages.  She is extremely passionate about voice therapy and enjoys helping clients achieve their vocal needs.  Her client centered approach to therapy ensures all clients maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

Transgender Voice Therapy: How an SLP Can Help

TransGender-SymbolWith all the buzz surrounding Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender transition bringing public awareness to this process, there continues to be less awareness of speech therapy and how it can support the overall transition process.

What can an SLP do for transgender clients?

A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) can help to not only increase pitch, but also change rate of speech, intonation and inflection patterns, volume, tone and placement of voice, and feminize gestures and body language:  an overall package that can aid transgender clients and help them feel more comfortable with their new selves.

How does the process of transgender voice therapy work?

An SLP will assess the client to get a better understanding of the goals they wish to achieve by coming to voice therapy.  Have they started hormone replacement therapy or gender re-assignment surgeries? How much do they want to change their voice (modify it and make it more feminine or completely feminize it)?  Hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgeries can all impact progress of voice therapy.  Voice therapy with transgender individuals should definitely be conducted with a holistic viewpoint and approach.  Client perception, outcomes, and long term goals are very important to the overall outcome of therapy.

What are the outcomes of transgender voice therapy?

The outcomes are completely client directed.  Increasing client awareness of their voice, anatomy, how it can change, and how to safely produce their new voice is a main goal of therapy.  Consistent attendance to therapy sessions is a necessity, especially in the beginning stages when establishing pitch, tone, and intonation patterns.  The aim is to produce voice in a way that does not strain or put stress on the vocal mechanism.  The degree of change and feminization varies based on vocal anatomy, client preference, and ability to use the “new voice” more than the “old voice.”

Speech/voice therapy is a great tool to add to the transgender process and an important step in the whole transition process.

LindaSaarenvirta-220Linda Saarenvirta has been practicing for 11 years as a registered Speech-Language Pathologist at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks.  For the past 5 years, Linda has focussed in the area of vocal rehabilitation including the use of videostroboscopy as well as the Visi-Pitch program.  She enjoys working with all clientele and believes strongly in the client centered approach that S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks provides.

Voice Therapy- Are You A Candidate?

We rely on our voices to inform, persuade, and connect with other people.  When our voices are unhealthy or unable to perform as they typically do, this affects other’s perceptions of us, and our own confidence level in our ability to effectively communicate.

How do you know when your voice is unhealthy?

  • Your voice is hoarse, raspy, and scratchy feeling for 10 days or more
  • You have lost ability to sing high notes or reach high notes when speaking
  • Your voice sounds deeper than it usually does
  • You experience chronic laryngitis
  • Your throat feels raw, achy and strained for several days
  • It is effortful to speak
  • You are repeatedly clearing your throat
  • You are vocally exhausted at the end of the day/week and do not want to talk at all

If you are experiencing these issues, contact your doctor and ask for a referral to an otolaryngologist (specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders).  This specialist can determine the underlying cause of your vocal problem.

He/she may then refer you to a speech-language pathologist who can help you with improving the use of your voice and avoiding vocal abuse.

Causes of vocal problems may include:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Genetic factors
  • Heavy exposure to environmental pollutants
  • Smoking
  • Acid reflux
  • Vocal misuse, abuse and overuse
  • Vocal nodules
  • Laryngeal growths
  • Neuromuscular diseases (spasmodic dysphonia; vocal cord paralysis)
  • Psychogenic conditions due to psychological trauma

Vocal demand

Typically vocally demanding jobs such as singers, actors, teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, sales people, and public/motivational speakers place the most demand on their vocal system and are prone to vocal injuries.

It is believed that approximately 7.5 million people worldwide have disorders of the voice. 

Good News!!

The majority of these disorders can be avoided by taking care of your voice and following healthy vocal habits.

LindaSaarenvirta-220Linda Saarenvirta has been practicing for 11 years as a registered Speech-Language Pathologist at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks.  During her time at Speech Works, she has worked with a variety of clientele. For the past 5 years, Linda has focussed in the area of vocal rehabilitation including the use of videostroboscopy as well as the Visi-Pitch program.  She has taken the Acoustic and Aerodynamic Instrumentation Workshop by KayPentax to facilitate her work with indepth analysis of vocal cord functioning.  She enjoys working with all clientele and believes strongly in the client centered approach that S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks provides.