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New Advancements: Can This Cutting-Edge Tech Pinpoint Your Voice Disorder?

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Author name: Lee Health


When words fail, Lee Health is helping patients find their voice.

Speech pathologist Stacey Brill explains how videostroboscopy can diagnose voice disorders in patients, the first step toward recovery. And only Lee Health offers it!

HN: What is videostroboscopy?

Brill: Videostroboscopy identifies vocal cord conditions and abnormalities by magnifying our view of the vocal cords at rest and during speech. The technology gives an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor and a speech and language pathologist like me specific information about a patient’s vocal cords and helps with providing a treatment plan for voice disorders.

HN: What are vocal cords, by the way?

Brill: Vocal cords are actually vocal folds. These are two elastic bands of muscle located in the voice box, above the windpipe. When we breathe, our vocal folds remain apart and when we swallow, they are tightly closed. When we use our voices, air from the lungs causes our vocal folds to vibrate between open and closed positions, causing sound waves at a frequency that we can hear.

HN: Is that why voices are sometimes called instruments?

Brill: Yes. I’ll give you the example of a bow drawn across the strings of a violin. The strings vibrate and air inside the violin resonates, amplifying the vibration. Our voices work similarly.

HN: Any interesting facts about vocal cords we should know? Like, how fast do they vibrate?

Brill: Our vocal folds vibrate too fast for the naked eye to see the actual vibration. During casual speech, the vocal folds of the typical male vibrates 100-130 times a second, on average. In the typical female, the vocal folds vibrate about 190-220 times a second, on average.

Anyway, that’s where the videostroboscopy as a technology really shines. It uses a synchronized flashing light passed through a flexible or rigid telescope (whichever is more comfortable to the patient) to create a series of images of the vocal folds, which appear to vibrate in slow motion. This allows us to better understand how the vocal folds function so we can develop a specific treatment plan with the patient. The technology not only helps us determine what changes are required to treat the problem, but other structural or tissue abnormalities may be detected as well.

HN: Who performs the videostroboscopy exam?

Brill: Any speech and language pathologist specially trained in its administration.

HN: The procedure looks uncomfortable. Does it hurt?

Brill: It’s painless. This procedure is done one of two ways: a thin, rigid endoscope is placed inside the mouth but not in the throat, so it’s non-invasive. The scope rests at the back of the mouth while the camera looks down at the vocal cords. The mouth/throat may be topically numbed with a mild agent to suppress the gag reflex. The patient is asked to produce sounds at a variety of pitch and loudness levels. The examination is digitally recorded and lasts only a few minutes.

In the second way, if more comfortable for the patient and depending on the diagnosis, a thin, flexible endoscope is passed through the nose and is suspended in the throat above the vocal cords. In this procedure, the nose is numbed with topical anesthetic. The examination is completed as described above.

HN: Is the exam OK for children?

Brill: Absolutely. Many pediatric clinics around the country use it. It’s best if the child is old enough to follow exam directions, which requires they imitate vocal sounds to assess the vocal cords in vibration.

HN: Do patients have to prepare for the exam?

Brill: No preparation is required. Patients can eat and drink as usual before it.

HN: What’s your takeaway message about this state-of-the-art technology?

Brill: Technology is a wonderful thing. We have the tools to assess vocal cord function and provide healthcare practitioners and specialists with the information required for a conclusive diagnosis. This tool allows us to customize a treatment plan for each patient to improve vocal quality. We can even use the strobe during a voice treatment session as a feedback tool for the patient to visualize the movement of their cords and how to use their voice appropriately.

HN: When should I consider consulting with my healthcare provider and care team about this diagnostic tool?

Brill: If your experiencing voice changes that last more than a few weeks, you should consult your ENT doctor. If a videostroboscopy exam is needed, we can assist with that. Based on your doctor’s findings, voice therapy may be needed.

Outpatient Rehabilitation: Complete care for all ages

Lee Health provides high quality, comprehensive rehabilitation services like speech therapy for all ages.

A highly trained and licensed therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation and develop an individualized treatment program so patients can function at their highest level of social and physical independence.

All of our patients remain under the care of the referring physician. We monitor therapy and adjust it based on patient progress. We document patient status and send evaluations to physicians, insurance companies, and other specified parties.

For more information, contact us at [email protected]

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