Speech writers are key to any politician, as they often prepare the content a candidate will deliver in a formal setting. But, delivering the message is the orator’s task and will always be dependent on the politician’s own voice, speech style, and body language, which make up many of the aspects of communication that are often an unconscious part of a listener’s perception, and in fact, if speech and voice are disordered in some way, it can distract from the actual message.

So, is it a speech writer or Speech-Language Pathologist that these two Presidential candidates need?

This week, following the first presidential debate, it has been President Biden’s performance that has been the focus of the news, and there has been an abundant amount of discussion about Biden’s communication abilities, including his voice.

Considering I spend much of my week working with patients whose voices are impaired for a variety of reasons, it has been interesting for me to view both candidates and their speech styles.

I have long thought that a speech-language pathologist could help Donald Trump with topic maintenance and coherence, prosody of speech and voice volume and tone, and replacing negative messaging with positive power words.

As for President Joe Biden, for months he has spoken with a raspy voice and engaged in frequent throat clearing when speaking. His voice problem may represent presbylarynx (age related changes to respiratory and phonatory mechanism), acid reflux, which is often a trigger for throat clearing, and/or his voice problem may represent muscle misuse and vocal fatigue. Pundits have suggested a medical diagnosis underlying President Biden’s voice impairment, and that, of course is between him and his physicians and yet to be disclosed.

All The President’s Voices

Dr Martin Cooper, a Speech-language Pathologist, and author of several books, including Change Your Voice, Change Your Life, and Stop Committing Voice Suicide, discussed the power of the human voice and the ups and downs of various President’s voices.

According to Cooper, all voices inherently have the capacity to convey believability, intellectual ability, emotional ability, and Presidential ability. But not all Presidents used their voice to their advantage. President Roosevelt used the power of his voice through the radio, broadcasting weekly Fireside Chats, using his voice as a major instrument of influence and persuasion.

John F. Kennedy had a younger voice with a trademark New England dialect. But, according to Cooper, it may have been more his youth and energy than his voice that influenced people.

Ronald Reagan was referred to by some as the “Great Communicator,” a trained actor, he could call upon his acting skills when he was speaking in public, conveying a message without shouting but rather, speaking in an easy conversational tone that was perceived as friendly and calm.

Bill Clinton’s voice seemed to become hoarser as his campaign and presidency went on, yet his congenial persona went on to get him elected.

So, I think readers can see that voice is not some superficial element of our being, but rather it is the first thing that people “see” about us when we walk into the room. And, as another well known Speech-language Pathologist, and Voice specialist, Daniel Boone, PhD wrote: your voice is always telling on you. It’s telling others about the state of your health, emotions, and confidence. And in some instance will enhance or distract from the actual message you are delivering.

Our voice is as distinctive as a fingerprint, and it reveals all: your age, or at least how old you sound, your physical and emotional well-being, and mood. An “old” or sick sounding voice on an otherwise vibrant older person can be a distraction to listeners who are secretly wondering: what’s wrong with their voice? We are reliant on our voices for maintaining connection with others, and if voice is impaired, individuals can feel a greater sense of social isolation.

I am convinced that if President Biden had come on to the debate stage in a wheelchair, but his voice sounded healthy and vibrant, that is all anyone would have noticed.

Both current Presidential candidates are at an age where I would have a high suspicion of age-related hearing loss, and this too, is an important factor when considering either individual’s communication abilities. Hearing will impact how effectively either gentleman perceives and processes what is being said, and of course, effective processing of information is necessary for retention. All a part of our complex auditory feedback loop and communication system, and essential for cognitive health.

Do You Have a Voice Problem?

Any change in your voice that persists beyond a couple of weeks should warrant a referral to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor for an exam of the larynx (voice box). A visual exam of the larynx may reveal age related changes to the vocal folds which can include stiffness and bowing, thinning due to reduced muscles mass and/or medications, or drying of the mucus membranes. In some instances, speech and voice changes are the early symptoms of an underlying neurodegenerative disease diagnosis.

In addition to laryngeal changes, the respiratory muscles may also stiffen or weaken in response to aging, and these physical changes can result in voice symptoms which may include breathiness, hoarseness, weakness, or difficulty projecting and vocal fatigue following voice use.

Referral to a Speech-language Pathologist who specializes in voice should be a part of the treatment plan.

Evidence indicates that physical conditioning plays an important role in maintaining vocal functioning as we age. Tony Bennett recorded an album shortly before his 90th birthday, giving testimony to the fact that a trained voice can continue to perform well throughout a lifetime

The Voice Aerobics® family of products were designed to provide patients options for voice practice before, during, and after formal speech therapy. Please visit our website to view our products, and remember, anytime you purchase a product, a complimentary online coaching session is always included.

 

My Mission: To 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