Areas of Practice
Voice Problems in Everyday Life
Before undertaking voice therapy, you should have your throat examined by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (Otolaryngologist). This consultation is arranged through your family doctor and provides important information about your health—in particular the health of your vocal tract.
The Voice Assessment
Because so many things can affect vocal health, investigating a voice problem is a complex business. A comprehensive evaluation takes about one hour and gives a clear picture of what has caused the voice problem and what is necessary to fix it.
A voice assessment generally includes four kinds of investigation:
- Voice use on and off the job: We look at:
- how voice problems are affecting work, family and leisure activities
- amount and kind of voice use
- speaking environments
- vocal technique in speaking
- relevant medical history
- relevant lifestyle factors
- Vocal parameters: We evaluate the voice quality and measure how long, high/low, loud/soft the voice will go.
- Vocal technique: We examine how efficiently the voice production system is being used.
- Diagnostic therapy: We use specific techniques to see if they effect an immediate change in how the voice feels or sounds.
This extensive evaluation gives a clear picture of vocal function and the basis for a plan of vocal rehabilitation.
The focus is on voice therapy and specific training to make the voice work better. In this process, the speech-language pathologist acts as a consultant—teaching, guiding, supporting and encouraging. While a course of voice therapy usually lasts a number of weeks, improvement often continues long after the sessions have ended. In learning to care for your voice and produce it well, you gain a valuable set of skills that continue to be of benefit as long as you use them.
The vocal rehabilitation process may also include
- changing lifestyle or voice-use habits
- modifying speaking environments to reduce background noise
- considering appropriate amplification or hearing protection
- obtaining input from other specialists—physiotherapist, medical doctors, psychiatrist/psychologist, speaking voice trainer, etc.
Voice Therapy and Motor Learning
Like any physical skill, good vocal technique must be learned at a physical level. It is not enough just to understand how the voice works; you must feel what it’s like to produce your voice well. These physical sensations of “doing it right” give you a reference point later on, when you are in the middle of a complex activity like teaching or having a conversation. To achieve this, we go back to basics. We use techniques that maximize clear, strong and easy voice production. Once the body “gets it”, we begin to generalize into real life situations. Efficient voice production habits become strongly wired into your system, so you become less vulnerable to the pressures and demands that life places on the voice.
Of course motor learning takes time—it is much slower than learning with the mind. Practice is essential. Because the body needs time to change habits, people often report their vocal technique continues to improve long after the voice therapy sessions are over.
Contact Shelagh for current fees. Extended medical benefits may cover some or all of the cost—you should check your plan for details under ‘speech therapy’ or ‘speech-language pathology’. ICBC and WCB may also cover therapy costs for related voice injuries or problems. For professional performers costs may be tax deductible.