Published: Aug. 9, 2007
Updated: May 6, 2010
From opera to gospel, from drill sergeant to preschool teacher, millions of professionals depend on their voices for singing or speaking. The human voice is one of our most valuable communication tools, and anything that changes the way we talk or sing can be a voice problem.
The Duke Voice Care Center brings a team of vocal specialists together to diagnose voice disorders and provide effective treatment.
Voice problems can result from a variety of medical conditions, medication, or voice overuse. These disorders can be complicated in origin but in most cases can be improved, while other voice problems can be signs of a serious underlying condition.
The Duke Voice Care Center's integrated approach to voice care includes a team of trained health care providers -- otolaryngologists, speech pathologists, and a singing-voice specialist -- who are skilled in addressing a range of illnesses and disorders from neurological disorders and cancer to benign lesions.
"At the Duke Voice Care Center, we treat voice disorders from the common to the complex and restore a patient's confidence in their daily communication," says David L. Witsell, MD, center director and associate professor, Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
"People often think there's nothing that can be done for their voices. It takes an interdisciplinary team to properly treat a disorder, and our patients are often astonished with the results."
The Center also provides services for individuals who do not have a voice disorder but who want to improve the quality of their voice. Professional vocalists can learn new ways to improve projection and overall sound, and treatment can include singing lessons as part of the voice enhancement program.
The Duke Voice Care Center has access to specialized diagnostic tools to examine vocal cords, including videolaryngostroboscopy, a procedure where a strobe light is inserted into the throat to examine the movement and vibration of the vocal cords.
Magnified pictures and high-quality videos of the voice box in action captured from this procedure can identify a range of complex conditions that may interfere with voice quality, pitch, and volume.
"At the Duke Voice Care Center, we combine the expertise of our team of health care professionals along with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to determine the cause of the voice problem and develop an integrated plan to improve the patient's voice," says Richard L. Scher, MD, associate professor, Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
Martha Gabriel, a hotel receptionist, noticed a new hoarseness in her voice. She consulted several doctors, but none could pinpoint the cause, dismissing her problem as the effect of allergies.
"I hated opening my mouth at times. Sometimes I'd get so embarrassed by the way I would sound," says Gabriel. "It took a real effort for me to talk, and it didn't need to be that way."
Gabriel finally got the answer to her hoarseness from the Duke Voice Care Center.
Her current treatments include speech therapy with a speech pathologist, and she is already experiencing positive results through breathing exercises and by repeating certain syllables and sentences.
"It's wonderful to be treated by someone who really understands my condition. My treatment will probably last another five to seven weeks, and I fully intend to stick with it," she says.
"People receiving voice care often experience a revived sense of confidence when socializing or participating in professional activities," says Seth M. Cohen, MD, assistant professor, Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
"Many of our older patients feel as though they sound like their younger selves. They feel like they've recaptured their youth."
For appointments or more information about the Duke Voice Care Center, call 919-681-4984.