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Health Matters - "Restoring voices, helping patients be heard"



Restoring voices, helping patients be heard

By Kelly Merritt
Speech and Language pathologist Ruth A. Faye, MS, CCC-SLP, evaluates a child's speec development
NCH Speech and Language pathologist Maureen Casey-Coe
and Susan O'Neill with the KayPENTAX.

Restoring voice function is preventative as well as corrective—but if vocal problems are plaguing a patient, NCH speech language pathologists Maureen Casey-Coe, MA, CCC-SLP and Susan O’Neill, MS, CCC-SLP are who you want on your side. They are part of a team of speech language pathologists at NCH who specialize in voice disorders at many locations throughout Collier and South Lee counties.

“As speech language pathologists, one of our roles is to evaluate and develop individual treatment plans for people who have problems with their voices,” O’Neill said. “Problems can arise for a variety of different reasons, such as chronic illness or use and misuse of one’s voice, including vocal fatigue—increased vocal effort can cause a patient to develop hoarseness.”

In the field of voice, O’Neill and Casey-Coe see patients who have chronic laryngitis related to acid reflux disease and those who have vocal cord paralysis and occupational hoarseness. Head and neck cancer can also cause vocal problems.

“In children, we sometimes see vocal cord nodules related to excessive crying and loudness. We teach them a softer way of speaking to improve their voice,” Casey-Coe said.

“When successful, voice therapy can prevent surgery for vocal nodules,” O’Neill said.

“In older adults, we treat patients with neurological issues and vocal cord weakness related to aging,” Casey-Coe said. Regardless of age, if people have difficulty with their voices, or show symptoms of a potential voice condition, they should talk to their doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as an Otolaryngologist, (ENT), and a speech language pathologist for treatment.

Patients develop different ways of speaking; using appropriate breath support and proper pitch, they are able to establish a pattern of projective voice. Treatment is also about learning to care for the voice and restore it through voice therapy.

O’Neill warns that professionals like teachers, performers, attorneys who have to speak loudly in court and sales representatives who have to do a lot of talking can be at risk for vocal overuse.

The NCH voice team has a new tool for treatment of vocal issues in the KayPENTAX®, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, which provides a view of the larynx during a detailed exam.

“With the KayPENTAX®, we examine the vocal cords under a strobe light to analyze vocal cord movement. Because the pictures are high definition, we are able to provide the referring physician, typically an Otolaryngologist, with the best possible information to co-develop a treatment plan,” Casey-Coe said.


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