Voice refers to the way our lungs, muscles, and nerves work together to produce human sound. A disordered voice may feel weak or "tire out" before the end of the day, leaving you unable to meet your speaking demands. An unhealthy voice may also sound hoarse, strained, squeaky, or gurgly, which can distract listeners. The goal of voice therapy is to help you build and maintain a strong, clear, healthy voice that meets your vocal demands. Voice therapy may also refer to transgender communication services, especially voice feminization for transgender women.
What is a voice disorder?
There are a variety of voice disorders, all with different causes and symptoms.
Behavioral (or functional) voice disorders arise from misuse or abuse of the vocal mechanism. Individuals with high vocal demands (singers, teachers, lawyers, clergy, coaches, actors, etc.) are particularly susceptible to straining their vocal musculature, which can cause damage to the tissues and affect the sound and stamina of the voice.
Organic voice disorders arise from problems with vocal physiology. Damage to the nerves or tissues related to voice production can make your voice sound abnormal or make it difficult to speak at all. Degenerative neurologic diseases such as Parkinson's disease are commonly accompanied by voice disorders.
What happens in voice therapy?
If you have concerns about your voice, it is always a good idea to visit an ear-nose-throat doctor (also known as an ENT or otolaryngologist). If you prefer to speak to speech therapist prior to your visit, we provide free consultations at speech IRL. We usually recommend an ENT appointment prior to a full speech therapy evaluation to determine if there are any medical factors that need to be treated for therapy to be successful. (ENT appointments are typically not required for transgender voice services.)
If your doctor recommends voice therapy with a speech pathologist, we begin with a thorough evaluation that includes a detailed history, vocal lifestyle assessment, and completion of various vocal exercises.
Voice therapy ranges widely depending on the speaker's vocal diagnosis and speaking demands. You may be given a vocal hygiene program, which focuses on taking care of your vocal musculature. You may be given exercises or taught to speak in a certain pattern to help your voice heal. If your voice is weak, your therapist may be able to teach you new techniques to increase your vocal power without straining your voice muscles and tissues.
How long does voice therapy take?
Length of therapy varies depending on the nature of your voice challenges and your personal goals. Voice therapy typically does not last longer than a few months, and sessions may be infrequent.
Practice is a vital component of voice therapy. Your speech therapist will give you new techniques and vocal lifestyle habits to help your voice heal and improve. If you continue to practice old habits, your voice will remin the same. We work hard to design custom programs that fit your lifestyle and also allow you to achieve your goals. Our goal is that you become an expert on your own voice. We want you to be able to care for and maintain a strong, healthy voice on your own.