Social Side-Effects of Spasmodic Dysphonia

Like other physical characteristics our voices help identify us. The sound of our voice influences how other people perceive us — possibly even more than the words we actually say. Loss of your “before” voice can deflate your overall subjective emotional evaluation of your own worth and cause you to judge yourself harshly. Well-meaning family, co-workers and social situations can make it more difficult.

“Our voice is our ambassador to the rest of the world,” says Dr. Norman Hogikyan, director of the University of Michigan Health System Vocal Health Center. For people with voice disorders, a part of their identity is changed. The weak voice can be unfairly associated with emotional sensitivity, a lack of confidence, lower intelligence, and sometimes, physical illness. That’s why social situations can be so stressful to someone with a voice disorder. But it is important to stay engaged with family and friends and not allow this condition to change who you are.

We asked the experts – those living with a voice condition – for their best advice on socializing. Below are some of the top responses and you can download even more on the sidebar. Do not let this limit you. You have so much to share.

ENJOY YOURSELF

Try not to be hurt if friends and family members do not understand. Sometimes, it can be hard for them and they might want your old self to come back. Eventually, they will accept you as you are now.

TALK ONE-ON-ONE

At social gatherings, scope out those you would like to converse with and try to talk one-on-one. Try not to speak over too much noise, and only speak face-to-face.

DON'T STRAIN TO SPEAK

Try not to speak over everyone. If they can't hear you, ask them to move closer, instead of straining to talk louder. Also, try to avoid noisy restaurants or ask for a quiet table.

MOVE THE CONVERSATION

Avoid noisy environments but if you are in a noisy room, try to move your conversation to somewhere quieter - perhaps an adjoining room, lobby or hallway.

HAVE A PLAN

Try speaking on the out breath with only 3 words and preparing 3-word responses beforehand. Short questions and positive statements work, such as "You look well/How’s things?/Love the music..."

TAKE A FRIEND

If you need support there is no one better then a good friend or a cherished loved one. Then, of course, enjoy who you are with. They love you and understand and will be your biggest cheerleader.

BE WILLING TO SHARE

Be willing to talk about your voice condition and answer questions. It can be helpful for them to understand what it is and how it affects you.

SMILE

Don't hide behind your voice. A smile makes you seem more approachable. So, smile, laugh, use gestures and above all, have a good time.

AND REMEMBER...

Your voice is just a part of you. You are so much more. You probably care more about the sound of your voice than others do. Don't worry and enjoy.
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