What Would You Do?
As a long-time SLP, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been in public and have noticed someone with a speech-language difficulty. What to do? Well, of course, 99% of the time I do not say anything. Yesterday, however, was different.
I heard her voice before I saw her face. You do not have to be an SLP to notice that there is something unusual about her voice. To be truthful, “unusual” is not an appropriate description. She has a voice disorder. Her voice calls attention to her-and not in a good way. How did I approach this? Not very creatively. I asked her if she had laryngitis. She said “no,” that she had a voice problem. I told her what I did professionally and that voice was an area of our field that I had both experience and interest in. She seemed open to talking about it. Very nice person, sweet disposition. She described her attempts to get help and without specifics, she told me she was very discouraged that no one had been able to help her.
Before I go further…for the SLPs in the group…here is what I heard: aphonia, pitch breaks (which seemed to get worse when she tried to speak louder), diplophonia (is there such a thing a multiphonia?), breathiness, harshness. My training: I was VERY fortunate as a grad student to have been taught by Dr. Rebecca Leonard. She runs the voice clinic at UC Davis Medical Center. She was an incredible professor of voice disorders–one of the toughest classes I ever took. Loved it.
Now, back to the situation at hand. The person told me her voice had always been this way. She described that she had undergone 3 direct laryngoscopic exams. By her description, the last one was done with the intent of performing surgery on her vocal folds. However, the surgeon decided not to do anything about it for fear that he might make her voice worse. Her frustration and discouragement with this was palpable.
I suggested she seek treatment at one of two centers: UCDMC or SacENT. I gave her the names of several ENTs I am familiar with any of which would be excellent (also gave her Dr. Leonard’s name). I did my best to encourage her NOT to give up. Gave her my contact info and told her to call me anytime for help. I can only hope that she decides to pursue further treatment.
So, a 5-10 minute errand turned into a 25 minute stop and a lively conversation about voice disorders. 🙂