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Duke marks World Voice Day with events focusing on vocal health, care

Posted April 2, 2012 8:59 p.m. EDT

Grammy Award-winning singer Adele made her triumphant return at the awards show earlier this year after surgery to heal damaged vocal cords.

But you don't need to be a professional singer with chart-topping hits to suffer the same injury. Staff at the Duke Voice Care Center regularly see teachers, church choir singers, salespeople and others who have the same problem.

"The message that we really want to get out is that these types of problems are way more common than people think," said singing voice specialist Leda Scearce of the voice care center. "People are always surprised to learn that this is all we do at this clinic five days a week. The prevalence of this kind of problem is fairly high. But most of the time, there's a lot people can do to prevent injury.  And it's very, very rare that we encounter a problem where we can't help the person."

Prevention, care and ways to resolve injuries are part of the focus of Duke's upcoming World Voice Day events. The international event, which started a dozen years ago, aims to bring attention to vocal health and habits.

Duke will offer three events in April. All are free, but registration is required.

Tips for Overcoming Hoarseness and Maximizing Your Voice is from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, at the Teer House, 4019 N. Roxboro Rd. Click here for more information.

Vocal health experts Dr. Seth Cohen and Gina R. Vess will present an overview of voice issues, including age-related voice problems, how hormonal changes can affect the voice and the impact of medications on the voice.

The singing voice will be the focus of a special event from 9 a.m. to noon, April 14, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Wade Avenue in Raleigh. Click here to register.

The workshop offers information for singers of all styles, worship leaders and music educators. Participants will learn the basics of voice anatomy and physiology, typical voice injuries and how to prevent problems. Singers from the North Carolina Opera and elsewhere will perform.

"We'll spend quite a bit of time on how to avoid getting an injury, which is called vocal hygiene," Scearce said. "That has to do with how you take care of your body. Things like being sure your body is adequately hydrated. ... We'll also be talking about ways of using the voice that make the voice most efficient and less likely to be injured."

Broadcasters, teachers, clergy, attorneys, salespeople and others with vocally demanding jobs can benefit from the final event from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., April 24, at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Click here to register.

World Voice Day: Vocal Health For Broadcasters and Occupational Voice Users will focus on the care of the voice and how to keep it healthy. It also includes a vocal health fair and question and answer session with NPR's Carl Kasell, who will receive the Patrick D. Kenan Award for Vocal Health and Wellness that evening.

"There are really a lot of people who have to use their voices for their job," Scearce said. "If they have a problem with that, that becomes an obstacle."

Scearce said patients with voice problems sometimes come in with complaints about hoarseness, a weaker voice or change in their range. Some say they've lost some of the control in their voice or that it gets tired easily.

Singers, who might have once had no problem singing through a two hour concert, get tired after 30 minutes. Teachers, she said, also have a very high risk of voice injuries.

"It's not unusual for us to see people really emotional about what they're struggling with with their voice because it has such a huge impact," she said. "We've seen people a lot of times who are considering a career change because they are struggling so much with their voice."

But there is good news. Like Adele, with proper treatment, they can return to their own stage, whether that's a classroom, church sanctuary or sales floor.

"When they can get the help they need, we can make a big impact," Scearce said. "A lot can be done to reverse it."

Go to the Duke Voice Care Center's website for more information about April's events and the services that the center offers. Check the box above for videos with more information about the center and World Voice Day.

Duke Medicine, Go Ask Mom's sponsor, offers health tips and information here every Tuesday.