If our eyes are the windows to the soul, our voices tell its story. We are inextricably connected to our voice, it tells others a lot about who we are, where we have been, and what we are currently feeling. What if you are experiencing changes in your voice, how do you get help for it? When is it appropriate to get help?
There are times when we lose our voice after yelling at a stadium or feel vocal fatigue after a long event, but if it goes away, we don’t need to follow up. If you experience a change in the way your voice sounds and/or feels that is chronic, and keeps coming back or never gets better, especially if it affects your participation, that is when you should get it assessed.
Who can assess a voice disorder? ENTs are the most common first stop, as they can use an endoscope to see your vocal folds and surrounding structures. They make medical diagnoses, for instance, cancer and lesions. However, most ENTs are generalists and have limited training in voice disorders. You want to find a laryngologist, a voice expert, as they will have more experience and possibly better equipment. Videostroboscopy is the gold standard for assessing voice disorders, it uses a similar fiberoptic camera as the endoscope, but it has a strobing light, which enables the viewer to see your focal folds move in slower motion. This allows them to see much more information, like what the edge of the folds look like when they are voicing, periodicity, and slight differences in each fold. The laryngologist will comment on any tension seen between and above the vocal folds, what it looks like, and how severe it is. Tension is a common culprit of harsh, strained, and uncomfortable voice.
Getting diagnosed in our society can be a long and arduous path. We often have to be advocates in order to get answers for what happening to us. We get second and third opinions, or never try, because it is so overwhelming. If you are not getting the answers you need, seek out the help of a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who works in the area of voice. SLPs have a wide range of domains that they work in, so be sure to ask if they specialize in voice. These days with teletherapy, you can usually see anyone in your state!
The SLP will do their own perceptual assessment based on what they can see behaviorally and acoustically, they might feel your muscles, have you do vocal tasks while recording, ask about your history, have you complete a questionnaire, and try to stimulate a better voice to see which treatments could work.
No one should have to suffer with a gravelly and uncomfortable voice, even if you just want to change the way that you sound, find an SLP to work with, they can get you back on track and prevent it from getting worse.
Check out my video on a stellar voice relaxation technique HERE
Check out my Voice Course Playlist HERE
Check out my new YouTube channel HERE