Using voice therapy to minimize symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia
There are many techniques that a Speech Language Pathologist specialized in treating voice disorders (aka Voice Therapist) can teach someone with voice disorders to use to help with their voicing. Individuals with abductor SD can be taught to change voiceless sounds to voiced ones or to articulate sounds in certain ways that make it easier to speak. Individuals with Adductor SD can be taught strategies to use more efficient airflow or methods to reduce tension and strain during phonation.
Voice therapy usually lasts for 6-8 sessions over 8-10 weeks. Key elements in this treatment include reduction of excessive strain during speech, strategies for difficult speaking situations such as the phone, and education about the disorder and its effects.
Voice therapy can provide a sense of control when individuals with SD better understand methods to navigate their voice and may provide a sense of validation of the challenges an individual faces with SD
Voice therapy by a licensed speech language pathologist can be an important component of a comprehensive treatment plan for the patient with dysphonia.
Voice therapy involves training the person to alter their manner of voicing. For instance, the voice therapist may point out that the patient is producing his or her voice with poor breath support or with excessive strain from the muscles around the larynx. Voice therapists can address how the SD patient has compensated for the disorder, perhaps in a maladaptive way, and can provide strategies for the individual to compensate for SD in more efficient ways. Through production of voice techniques and at-home practice the patient can gain better insight into how to speak more efficiently and effectively.
Speech therapy is generally seen as a helpful adjunct to other treatments for SD and is particularly helpful for individuals with SD who have excess voice strain to “unload” some vocal muscle tension.
What often helps make voice quality better?
- Vocal exercise (humming, speaking slowly, reciting nursery rhymes)
- Volume control (talking softly or loudly)
- Feeling relaxed
- Breathing deeper breaths, exhaling before speaking, not holding onto the breath
- Environmental control (talking one-on-one, not being interrupted)
- Using voice early in the morning
- Sensory gestures (neck muscle massage, covering eyes, pinching nose)
- Physical exercise
- Mental aspects (“not thinking about it”, keeping a good attitude)
- Miscellaneous (physical rest, vocal rest, warm liquids, laughing)
What often makes voice quality worse?
- Stress (being tense)
- Speaking on the telephone
- Speaking in a loud or large space
- Trying to talk over noise
- Lack of sleep
- Negative thinking
- Miscellaneous (overuse, weather changes, having a cold)