With a speech-language pathology practice located in SW Florida, I have lots of patients who are boaters, and in fact a few patients who lived on their boats for 10 years or more while traveling the Caribbean.
When these current or former sailors come to me with speech and voice changes from Parkinson’s disease, they often understand when I say:
“you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sails”
There are many ways to apply this metaphor. People with Parkinson’s often find that symptoms emerge a little differently every day, due to medications, fatigue, and other factors. So adjusting to the variable winds might be how they view adapting to their life with Parkinson’s.
But, when the metaphor is applied to speech and voice, it has a slightly more literal meaning. Because, now, I refer to the vocal folds as the sail, and the wind each breath we inhale and exhale. Small adjustments in the vocal folds can help us utilize breath support more efficiently.
When the vocal folds are too close, the result will be a tight or tense voice. This is frequently the voice problem of someone with an adductor spasmodic dysphonia, and it can also come about when there is underlying weakness and excessive muscle tension which may be the compensation one has learned to use.
When the vocal folds are too far apart, or bowed, as is often the case in Parkinson’s disease, the vocal folds may not be able to sustain contact for the duration of a message, and the voice is often breathy. Even when breath support is adequate, the perception of the speaker may be that they are “running out of breath.”
Vocal Folds that are Just Right
Voice scientists, like Kitty Verdolini, PhD, tell us that it’s when the vocal folds are barely touching the best voice with the least amount of effort is produced. You can feel this for yourself by humming.Try it now. Just hummmmm.
Notice if you feel any vibration on your lips or face. Try it a few more times. The breath out (exhalation) is the breath we speak on, and it’s this phase of breathing that supports voice use. Improving breath support, proper positioning of the vocal folds, and a relaxed upright posture, can all yield improved voice use.
If your goal is clear and strong voice use, visit a speech-language pathologist familiar with voice treatment and Parkinson’s disease. Speech therapy treatment programs like LSVT® LOUD and SPEAK OUT! ® have been designed specifically to address the underlying speech and voice symptoms associated with PD.
Every day may not bring blue skies, but learning to sail your own ship can be empowering. Well hydrated vocal folds move more easily than when dry, and require less push from the lungs. Hydrated vocal folds are also less prone to injury, so always have some water available during home speech practice.
Want to Practice at Home?
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Giving thanks to all of the patients who enlist me with their care, and to the customers who purchase my products and support my mission.
My MissionTo enlist individuals in their treatment, and help them express their personality & spirit through voice. To educate and empower. Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP * FiTOUR® Group Exercise Instructor * Voice Aerobics® A Whole Body Approach to Voice Practice
Voice Aerobics the heART and Science of Voice Practice
Thank you, Anne, for your feedback. It means a lot to me to know that the information provided is meaningful to readers.
Thank you so much, Mary, for this newsletter, which is affirming and always a blessing, always a breath of fresh air.