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Health Team

UNC's Voice Center strikes right chord for vocal remedies

Posted April 14

— While most people use their voices to talk, some, including famous singers, depend upon it for their livelihood.

For anyone, having a problem with their voice can make it difficult to communicate. When people develop vocal issues, though, there are remedies.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Jenna Hall first noticed a change in her voice more than six months ago, and her problems only got worse.

"Like decreased pitch range, and I'm super raspy, very hoarse, sometimes breathy, too," Hall said.

At UNC's Voice Center, a multidisciplinary team of speech pathologists and clinicians help patients.

The heart of the many problems is in the voice box.

UNC otolaryngologist and surgeon Dr. Rupali Shah says vocal folds should open to breathe and close to swallow or speak.

Hall's weren't working properly. She had two lesions and polyps on her vocal folds.

"What that does is, when you watch them vibrate together, is they can cause a little raspiness or roughness to the voice, and then they also cause the vocal folds from closing all the way," Shah said. "The more we talk on a voice like this, the worse the voice can get."

Conservative measures often help, but Shah says simple in-office laser procedures can be an effective option, though some require surgery.

Speech pathologist Heather Davies now helps Hall learn speaking skills that are easier on her vocal folds. Hall is trying new vocal techniques and drinking more water to bring back a more normal voice quality.

Smoking, alcohol use, acid reflux, professional voice use and allergies can all cause problems with a person's voice.

Any unusual voice symptoms that last longer than two or three weeks should be seen by a clinician.

Shah says resting your voice is not recommended, unless you're recovering from vocal fold surgery.

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