Voice quality is one of the many areas that speech pathologists can support you. This includes helping people who have difficulties with the quality, loudness, or pitch of their voice.
When someone has significant and persistent difficulties with their vocal quality, they are described as having a ‘voice disorder’.
Why might someone have a voice disorder?
There are three critical things involved in making a good quality voice. Your breathing, your ‘voice box’ and your mouth. These three things have to work well together in order to produce a clear and healthy quality.
The voice box or ‘vocal tract’ in your throat is a very sensitive system and small changes to different parts of it can make a big difference to the quality/pitch/loudness of the voice.
For example, a little bit of increased tension in your neck or throat can alter the way that your vocal folds (cords) vibrate, creating a different rough or raspy sound, or a gap between your vocal cords can make your voice sound breathy.
Why might someone have these difficulties?
One common reason for poor vocal quality is overuse of the voice. This is common for teachers, presenters, referees, nurses, and other heavy voice users.
Another reason for voice changes is poor vocal hygiene. Vocal hygiene refers to looking after the parts of your voice that can commonly become fatigued. For example, drinking water and giving your voice a rest can make a significant difference in how well your voice can recover.
Damage to the vocal folds or the nerves that supply them can also lead to voice changes. This can occur following trauma to the neck, inhalation of fumes or gas, or after intubation during surgery.
Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease also often have difficulties with voice loudness and clarity due to some difficulty coordinating all of the components of making a good voice.
What does therapy involve?
Therapy can involve a range of different techniques, exercises and strategies which aim to address the specific difficulty causing the changed vocal quality. Vocal hygiene strategies are also critical to improving vocal quality. There is also a program called LSVT that has been specifically developed to target the vocal quality of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Many of the clinicians at Hanrahan Health have undertaken this special training.