The Melbourne Voice Analysis Centre was formed back in 1994 as the first private interdisciplinary clinic in Victoria dedicated to specialized assessment of voice using videostroboscopic technology. Over the years, we have developed even greater expertise and skill in line with new research findings, our experiences and with evidence-based practice. At the end of 2008 we upgraded our equipment to the ‘latest release’ digital system to ensure that the pictures gained could offer the best possible laryngeal view and analysis.
At The Melbourne Voice Analysis Centre, we embrace a team approach to voice assessment which involves, as a minimum, both a speech pathologist and an ENT specialist. We believe that, since the voice is a dynamic process, an exclusively structural assessment does not suffice. For this reason, we use sophisticated equipment to evaluate the vibratory behaviour of the vocal folds (cords) as well as the structure. We also assess the function of the larynx in different contexts (for example, breathing, speaking softly versus loudly, singing or whistling etc.). Using these methods and others, we can then determine, not just how the larynx looks, but how it WORKS too.
A Voice Problem:
- Is an unexpected change in the sound or feeling of your voice which doesn't suit your vocal needs.
Symptoms include:- Huskiness, hoarseness, lowered pitch, decreased pitch range, difficulty projecting voice, voice breaks, throat discomfort (tickling throat clearing, pain), voice fatigue or decreased stamina.
When to seek help:-
- When symptoms persist in the absence of an illness longer than two to three weeks.
- Immediately if you have throat pain not associated with a cold/flu or if you are coughing up blood or have a lump in the throat.
- If you have a complete loss or severe change in voice lasting longer than a few days.
- If ignored, the problem can become chronic, more severe and can lead to development of pathologies like nodules.
- Rarely due to cancer unless you have been a smoker and a heavy drinker.
- Is commonly misdiagnosed as laryngitis and often inappropriately given repeated antibiotics or long-term use of throat gargles.
Some common causes of Voice problems
- Voice use patterns (eg faulty, excessive, misuse, abuse or discuss)
- Irritants - smoking (cigarettes, marijuana), dust/pollutants
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux
- Vocal injury:- trauma to larynx (intubation, external hit to the neck etc)
- Health issues/diseases: eg. Asthma, thyroid dysfunct
ion, arthritis, hormonal imbalance or neurological problem.
- Upper respiratory tract infections/inflammation
Some realities about voice problems
- Majority of voice problems don’t need surgery
- The majority of voice problems are avoidable and remediable
- Even the most accomplished highly trained singer can develop a voice problem (same as an elite athlete is still susceptible to injury)
- Voice problems can have a huge psychological impact and can also be caused by psychological distress
- You don’t realize how crucial your voice is until you lose it
- Other people can be unsympathetic about voice problems and tend to comment more readily than they would if someone limped, stuttered or was in a wheelchair, e.g. “Have you got a cold?” or “That’s a sexy voice”. Often they raise their own volume assuming the person also has a hearing problem.
- 2/3 of voice problems are due to faulty use and can lead to pathology such as swelling, nodules, cysts or bleeds in the cords.
Prevalence of Voice Problems
- Virtually everyone at some stage over a one year period will experience a ‘croaky” throat whether due to a cold, fatigue or something more serious or long lasting.
- Whether this becomes a problem, usually depends on the severity, duration, how much you depend on your voice for social and vocational purposes and your reaction to the symptoms.
- 1/3 of performers experience some problem with their voice over a 1 year period, frequently requiring them to cancel a performance or to give a sub standard performance.
- High risk groups are those who use their voices a lot, those who use their voices incorrectly and those who use the extremes of their voice without relief, eg. school teachers, auctioneers, barristers, aerobics instructors, singers, actors, spruikers, sales representatives, telephonists/ call centre operators, clergy, children (yellers, choristers) etc.