What is Voice Therapy?
Voice therapy focuses on helping individuals with voice disorders change and adapt their vocal behaviors and heal and support their vocal cords. The therapy helps your voice sound stronger and more like it did before the voice disorder. Voice therapy can also be helpful in preventing damage to the vocal cords or the development of a voice disorder.
Voice therapy typically consists of techniques and exercises that target various vocal parameters, including vocal fold closure, pitch, volume, and overall quality. This type of therapy is provided by specially trained speech-language pathologists and is typically used to help manage voice disorders or to alter the general quality of voice, as in the case of transgender voice therapy.
Whether you are struggling with a specific voice disorder or are hoping to change the overall quality and sound of your voice, voice therapy with a speech therapist is the best resource. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What Does Voice Therapy Treat?
Voice therapy is designed to help individuals who are affected by voice disorders. Voice disorders affect the larynx, or voice box, and can result in consistent or sporadic changes in the voice. The larynx is located in the throat and contains the vocal cords. It also contains the muscles required to properly talk, breathe and swallow.
Voice disorders can cause changes in the quality, pitch, or volume of the voice. In the case of a voice disorder, the voice may sound strained, hoarse, or weak. In some cases, the voice becomes a whisper or can disappear altogether.
In more recent years, voice therapy has also become a valuable resource for transgendered people. Voice therapy can help the individual to change or alter their voice to more appropriately reflect their gender identity.
How Does the Voice Work?
When one makes vocal sounds, air moves through the lungs and into the windpipe (trachea) and voice box (larynx.) Inside the larynx are two vocal cords (also referred to as vocal folds). These flexible and elastic muscles vibrate as air passes through them. These vibrations produce the sound waves that are the human voice.
Normally, the vocal cords vibrate together to produce a clear vocal sound. Vocal disorders occur when the vocal cord vibrations are out of sync or the vocal cords don’t fully open or close. Pitch refers to how low or high your voice is. The size, length, and tension of the vocal folds affect pitch.
How Do I Know if I Need Voice Therapy?
Almost 18 million Americans struggle with problems with their voice, but many don’t seek treatment or know that treatment is available. Voice therapy can help both children and adults. Your doctor or healthcare provider will likely recommend voice therapy if you have a voice disorder, such as:
Laryngitis: Upper respiratory infections or allergies can cause irritation of the voice box, causing it to swell. Laryngitis commonly improves when the underlying condition is resolved.
Muscle Tension Dysphonia: This is caused by excessive stress on the vocal cords which causes the muscles to tighten and be overly tense.
Spasmodic Dysphonia/Vocal Tremor: This occurs when the muscles in the voice box muscles spasm or tremor which causes periodic breaks in speech. Spasmodic dysphonia is classified as a neurological disorder.
Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD): Occasionally, the vocal cords want to close when they should be open. This is known as VCD. Vocal cord dysfunction can result in difficulty breathing during exercise or when the throat is irritated.
Vocal Cord Lesions: Benign (noncancerous) lesions can form on vocal cords, which affects the voice. Types of vocal cord lesions can include nodules, polyps, and cysts. Singers and individuals who speak a lot in their profession, such as teachers and lawyers, are more susceptible to developing vocal cord lesions.
Vocal Cord Paralysis: This occurs when one or both vocal folds have no movement or impaired movement, which isn’t controllable. This is the result of scarring or nerve damage. Vocal cord paralysis can result in hoarseness, swallowing difficulties (referred to as dysphagia), and shortness of breath (referred to as dyspnea).
How Long Does Voice Therapy Take to Work?
The duration and intensity of voice therapy depend on the underlying problem and its severity. Most individuals require voice therapy appointments once or twice weekly over the course of several months. To succeed, following your voice therapist’s instructions is very important as is taking the time to perform various vocal exercises at home. Continuing to practice these exercises at home after voice therapy sessions end will help to keep your voice healthy. Speech and language pathologists are experts when it comes to keeping the voice healthy and improving vocal function due to a voice disorder. Get started with Great Speech by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Is Voice Therapy Permanent?
Voice therapy, and the improvements it offers, can be permanent. With that being said, taking precautionary measures to protect the voice from suffering further damage is very important. Good vocal hygiene practices can go a long way toward protecting your voice. You should:
- Ensure you Drink Plenty of Water and Always Stay Hydrated
- Limit the Intake of Caffeine and Alcohol Which Can Dry out Vocal Cords
- Take Care to Manage Conditions such as Allergies and Chronic Coughs that Cause Irritation of the Vocal Cords
- Rest the Voice and Vocal Cords as Much as Possible
- Quit Smoking and Avoid Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
What Happens During Voice Therapy?
An experienced and knowledgeable speech and language therapist will guide you through a variety of voice therapy exercises that will help to:
- Prevent or Eliminate Harmful Vocal Behaviors
- Aid in the Healing Process of Vocal Cords After Surgery
- Promote Healthy Vocal Behaviors
What Are Voice Therapy Techniques?
During voice therapy sessions, the speech therapist will teach a variety of exercises and techniques that improve overall vocal function. The exercises and focus of vocal therapy vary and depend on the cause of the vocal problem. Some of these techniques include:
Breathing Exercises – Certain breathing exercises can help to control the diaphragm muscle which enables us to speak and breathe.
Tension Release Exercises – These exercises work to decrease tension in the throat, and include such techniques as targeted stretching and massage.
Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Sounds – Practicing the production of certain sounds such as straw phonation, lip trills, and humming helps to promote healthy vocal cord vibration.
Voice Building Exercises – These types of exercises help to strengthen the vocal cords and breath, and offer support for weakened or damaged vocal cords.
Voice therapy can help to treat a wide variety of problems with the voice. Speech and language pathologists are experts when it comes to helping individuals support, strengthen and repair their voice and related muscles. Get started with voice therapy by scheduling your free introductory call today!