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When somebody suddenly experiences difficulties with their speaking or singing voice, they usually get really concerned, but are still hoping that the problem will go away by itself. Weeks, and sometimes months, will pass and the voice problem not only hasn’t gone away, but has actually become worse.

This person ends up trying to push their voice harder and harder to make it work the way it used to, not realizing that it is doing more harm than it’s worth.

Eventually, after they seem to have tried everything, they end up getting a referral to an ENT specialist, hoping that the specialist will shed light on their problem and offer them a quick and “magical” fix.

And yes, after the diagnosis, especially with polyps, nodes, nodules, or cysts, the ENT specialist usually offers a quick laser or scalpel operation to remove the growth on their vocal cords or their throats.

That operation seemed to also be offered to Joan Rivers, who evidently had some problems with her vocal cords, as she was sounding more raspy and hoarse in recent years. She was obviously concerned with her speaking voice, as her livelihood was depending on it, and rightfully so.

One might ask, should she have considered a non-surgical way of fixing her voice problem first, especially given her age and the numerous other surgeries she had been through?

The answer is most probably yes, but that would require the time, energy, and money; although in her case, the latter probably would not matter.

Like many people today, she was living her life at a fast pace and probably did not want to allocate the time to thoroughly investigate what could have been done with regards to fixing her voice in a less invasive manner.

Surgery of any sort carries a risk and could cost you your life. Here in Canada, I was friends with Bella Kovarsky, the first Ballet teacher of one of the greatest dancers of all time, Mikhail Baryshnikov. She was the founder of the Bayview School of Ballet, here in Toronto.

In the year 2000, Bella Kovarsky died suddenly during what was supposed to be a very mundane and simple procedure (a type of appendix removal). Her death was not only sad but completely unexpected. Nobody could have predicted such a tragic end for this wonderful and talented individual who dedicated all of her life to ballet and great choreography.

Both Bella and Joan’s surgeries were thought to be simple procedures, and yet both of these very talented people did not survive this simple invasion. Any surgical invasion, even those in outpatient facilities (like the one where Joan Rivers’s surgery took place) can be dangerous and could easily end your life.

So, in my opinion, especially concerning vocal problems (since it is in my field of expertise), I would try everything non-surgically first and then, if there is no way to fix the voice naturally and holistically, turn to a surgical procedure.

To conclude:

If you love your voice and yourself for that matter, please do not hesitate to spend the time to research the best alternative care and try absolutely everything possible to conquer your problem naturally, scalpel-less, and laser-less for that matter.

What a beautiful article written about the legendary Joan Rivers!

When I came to Canada almost 35 years ago I was trying to watch as much TV as I could to learn the language. Although I didn’t fully understand her humour at the time, I was impressed by comedian Joan Rivers. Joan had beautiful energy and a very animated personality, and she spoke very loudly with huge command and conviction in her voice. However, being a voice specialist, I immediately noted that she was using her voice incorrectly, as her voice was obviously coming out from the back of her neck and the very bottom of her throat.

In all honesty, I am amazed that her voice lasted as long as it did!

That said, it is evident that, genetically, she was a very strong woman with a very strong personality. In a general sense, no human voice could withstand such pressure applied onto the vocal box for a prolonged period of time. However, you could clearly hear in her performances in recent years that her voice was getting raspier and quite often she simply sounded hoarse.

When that happens to a human being, especially one whose livelihood depends on his or her voice, that individual, quite often, emotionally disagrees with the situation. However, most of the time, that person intellectually understands that something has to be done about it, as there is no change without a change, so to speak. While disagreeing, however, they are trying to continuously push that voice out on the surface when, by that time, the voice has usually already been drowned deep inside in their throat.

So by pushing it vigorously, they are, unfortunately, accomplishing the opposite result, as by drowning and straining that voice exponentially could bring it to the stage of no return. However, like you are stating in your article, people with voice challenges should notice the change sooner rather than later and first try to conquer it non-surgically—by finding a qualified voice specialist who knows how to conduct the voice repair in a holistic manner.

We live in a very fast-paced world and to accomplish something we have to move pretty fast.

So the thoughts of people like John Rivers and even just of ordinary people are “Let’s do it now, and let’s do it fast.” She was probably thinking about her next upcoming performance and, nevertheless, wanted to sound nice, clean, and crisp. However, she did not realize that surgery is not necessarily the solution. The “instrument” might be tuned and fixed, but the “player” is still applying the wrong technique, trying to extract the sound from said instrument. If the greatest pianist of all time, Liberace, had been hammering his beautiful pink Grand Piano he would have broken it to pieces and would have no instrument to show his best piano skills.

It takes two—the instrument and the player.

The instrument has to be sound and the player has to be adequate. The player also must be able to extract the maximum capacity of that given instrument. So in the case of the voice, the speaker or singer has to be able also to extract the maximum capacity of their voice and with no pain or strain on the vocal anatomy. I always say, work smart, not hard, and with minimum effort accomplish the maximum result. Also, work upon the design and do not play it by ear.

That said, be professional on every level.

A lot of people, especially with speaking voice problems, who are coming to me for my services, are absolutely sure that the only problem they have is their voice problem.
Little do they know!

Evidently, they don’t perceive that the voice is the essential part of their anatomy and it is interconnected to their whole emotional, physical and mental being.

Sometimes, the problem with the speaking voice could be an indication of something else happening in the physical body and their voice problem actually has been emotionally induced. Let’s take, for example, spasmodic dysphonia.

This particular voice disorder has very little to do with the nasty symptoms like uncontrollable spasms of the voice and loss of control of the vocal box, as the problem, in this instance, is not in the voice. The problem has neurological nature which was most likely induced by highly emotional stress and then it manifested in the physical body. The symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia, coupled with high blood pressure and highly emotional stress, could be the warning symptoms of the future stroke.

If we are talking about muscle tension dysphonia, it mostly has to do with the improper conduct of one’s voice. However, these people who suffer from this nasty voice disorder are usually quite highly unbalanced, hyperactive, loud and controlling. While embarking on fixing their voice, these individuals should look closely at their behavior on an everyday bases.They should reassess their communication and habitation with the people they come into contact with regularly or otherwise.

These types of people are usually very opinionated and like to prove their point with everything they’ve got, so to speak. While doing that they sometimes become very loud. They actually are not noticing that they are pushing their voices to the absolute heights and limits, until they reach the point that they cannot push anymore. Now, their so called ‘power’ has been taken away from them and now they feel helpless.
So, as we see, the voice problem has very deep roots. The character of the person, the physical and emotional make-up of the person has a lot to do with why their voice injury occurs.

Maybe, in a way, it is a blessing for those people who were on the loud side all their lives and never thought that they could, perhaps, adjust their behavior and their lifestyle to the point of the absolute balance, so that neither the voice issue, nor any other health issues, would possess their being. And of course, there are “simple cases” which usually happen to singers and simply being induced by them not knowing how to conduct their speaking and singing voice. For them, once they recover their voice, the sky is the limit. Now, they acquire a proper vocal technique, which applies to speaking and singing and they are very well on their way to stardom.

Yes, of course, their vocal injury also, understandably, plays with their mind and their emotions, but the roots of their vocal injury, usually are not as deep, as for people who just injured their speaking voice. The psychology of the voice/vocal injury for both categories has completely different roots and has to be approached somewhat differently. The main thing for both categories, of course, is to regain the full health and full balance and realize that the voice loss is just a symptom of something bigger and greater which has been happening to them for some time.

Nevertheless, the innovative and alternative voice therapy suggests to treat the person as a whole, holistically and naturally.

When the vocal injury occurs it’s definitely not a “picnic” for every party involved.

If it happens to a regular person, who is not a singer at all, and not at all prepared that one day he/she wakes up and will sound with the hoarse raspy voice which is hardly resembling the voice which the sufferer originally possessed.

Not being in agreement with that, the person starts to push all surrounding muscles – like throat, neck, shoulders and chest, trying to extract some sound familiar to them.

Unfortunately, the more they push, the less they accomplish.

Moreover, the sounds actually gets pushed more so down and may easily get stuck at the neck, which in a short while may become an indication of what’s called Muscle Tension Dysphonia.

Now, clearly, the real vocal injury has occurred.

Naturally, the first thought that comes to the sufferer is to get referred to ENT doctor.

They wait for months for the appointment and finally arrive to the ENT specialist’s office.

After being examined and being diagnosed, especially with something the doctor has nothing to operate on, they are being let go with the absolute confusion and no direction how to proceed further and conquer their voice injury.

So what is the alternative?

The alternative is a natural and holistic practitioner who specializes in voice disorders.

Some people are not at all open to that idea; others, with more understanding, are more than happy to embark on a proper voice/vocal technique supplemented with natural herbs and remedies.

Some people truly think that the only problem they have is that their vocal anatomy is not intact, but otherwise they are fine.

So if only they could get a hold of a “magic pill”, preferably prescribed by a medical doctor, they would be just fine and would continue their lifestyle – speaking/singing with a wrong technique/application of the voice, speaking excessively loud, singing with the strained voice and colds, and consuming a lot of dairy, sweets, and red meat.

Go figure!?

We all wish that it would be that easy, but unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it may seem.

By the time the person experiences the severe symptoms, the whole body, and sometimes, the soul is also out of whack.

So at this time the problem is quite deep and quite encompassing and thus has to be approached and treated holistically.

By the time the person with the voice disorder finally finds an alternative help, he/she usually suffers quite a bit psychologically and emotionally.

A lot of them are very tearful and feel like a failure; some of them are so depressed that they feel suicidal.

No wonder though, as the voice is a great tool for communication – speaking or singing.

Suddenly, these affected people are being deprived from their voice – in the global understanding of that word.

It actually could be quite devastating.

So now these people not only need the work on their voice, but first of all, they would need to work on their mental balance, and their physical body balance (diet and what not), and then on the actual proper mechanics of the voice, which once employed, will save and protect the voice for life, and thus prevent the occurrence of this ever happening again.

What price tag can you put on that?

Teaching here in Toronto for almost 3 and half decades, I cannot believe how the people changed with respect of their attitude, mentality, physicality and yes, dreams, which they used to have galore.
Since 1980, we’ve been through quite a few recessions, but it never affected people in the way which I am witnessing right now. They used to possess a lot of passion and love for music. The majority of even just ordinary people, (not necessarily musicians), had dreams to become professional artists, experience the professional recording and then experience the huge urge and excitement to be able to cut a record deal.

Almost on a weekly basis, the new groups, (bands) were formed.

The school kids were positively occupied with the rehearsals with their group; and then, to perfect their craft, with private vocal and instrument lessons on the side. Yesterday, I spoke with one of my young adult students and asked him what his friends of the same age, (18 to 20 years old), had been doing with their leisure time.

He responded that they have been searching through the websites day in and day out, trying to figure out how to make money, and then to engage, at best, in the electronic video games or, God forbid, in some negative activities. According to my student, none of his peers have any other ambitions outside of electronic engagement. The word ‘music’ or ‘singing’ was never even mentioned.
How sad is that?

I am truly missing those guys (age 16 to 25), who use to come with their guitars or base guitars with the excitement in their eyes and smile on their faces. Where did it all go and what is the problem?
My personal opinion would be that, not only now we are going through a general recession, but also the music business is going through a huge recession and reformat. In Toronto, there is virtually no music industry present.

Some of my clients, in the not very distant past, have gotten signed, but then were dropped off the roster of, for example, Sony, Capital and Universal records. As my clients reviled to me after the fact, that the record company let go of the majority of their staff and there were simply no music professionals left to complete my clients’ projects. The club owners here in Toronto have definitely lost their professional acumen and frankly, as it appears to be, their consciences as well. They never, per say, paid anything, (outside the door), to the bands for their performances, but they also never asked the bands to pay them for the “privilege” to play in their clubs.

When one of my former students, who I had mentored to a beautiful singing performer, revealed that to me, I could not believe my ears. Her and her band were working so hard on writing, playing and recording music, and now they got deprived of showcasing their musical skills, as they were unable to pay upon demand for their performances to the club owners.

It is pathetic, isn’t it?

How could people maintain their dreams and still possess their passion when they are not able to realize their desires and express their love for music and singing? So, our city, unfortunately, is becoming very commercial, very business oriented and, frankly, people in our city have become really skeptical and really cynical. All of these above described “qualities” are hardly corresponding with any artistic tendencies and inclinations. That explains why the city feels so grey, so depressed and with very low energy. I feel a great remorse and experience a great loss of fun, passion, and accomplishment, as in our times, those so called ‘qualities’ are, evidently, not tangible and thus, unfortunately, not being accountable for anything anymore.

What a shame!!!

If you are suffering from a complete voice loss, then, unfortunately, we will not be able to help. In order to recover the voice, we need some kind of a sound production. I was amazed when one person, after quite intensive correspondence with me via e-mails, finally called me and could not produce anything but a whisper. When I asked him what he was diagnosed with, he, to my surprise, responded with whispers that the Doctors could not find anything wrong with him. 

I was literally shocked with that reply. But, unfortunately, could not offer him any viable help, as no sound was present at all. Then, in my office, another man unexpectedly walked in, who actually had the sound, but there was nothing but “mooing”, so to speak. Apparently, he recently undergone a cancer of thyroid operation and he ended up with both vocal cords paralysed. Naturally, I told him the truth that vocal paralysis on both vocal cords is non treatable.  Believe it or not, he looked at me with absolute surprise, disbelief and disappointment! 

Go figure!

I am not sure what he expected me to say.

There are a lot of things I could do non-surgically, but some things are not possible to concur even with the best abilities of the Voice Repair specialist, or any other therapist for that matter. If you remember the story of Movie Actor Christopher Reeves who fell down from the horse and ended up with quadriplegia.

No doubts, he was surrounded by the best doctors and definitely had no lack of money to hire any help he needed; but, evidently, nobody could help him.

The best they could do is to keep him positive and reasonably comfortable. Conversely, after the initial shock from both parties, my prospective client and my own, I advised him that I could improve the quality of his life and no doubts his confidence, by making him pronounce and announce his words somewhat clearer and to be more understood.  I told him, in a nutshell, how I will go about it, and that my method is completely natural, holistic and alternative to any medical interventions.

I told him that I will restructure his voice in a different set of muscles and take it away from the vocal box to the place where his sound will become more amplified and less strained. I explained to him how that wholesome mechanism, which I will instill into his psyche, will allow his voice to work in the fullest capacity possible and to the best of its ability.  

He left and the next day wrote to me an e-mail where he expressed that he could not understand how his voice will work “outside of his vocal cords”. In his e-mail he expressed that he is hoping that one day his voice will come back fully. On that note, I told him that I wished him all the best. It is sad, but true.

That person, as many others, had absolutely no check with reality. I am sure that if any medical professionals could put Christopher Reeve back on the horse and make him a Superman again, they would. So take it from there. It’s always good to have a hope, but it has to be realistic. 

And now, yet another case study.

The person comes in with, so to speak, stage 4 of Muscle Tension Dysphonia disorder. I am sure everybody knows that, when somebody is diagnosed, for example, with stage 4 cancer, (God forbid), it pretty much means that, most likely, that person will not make it. I have to admit that, when I’ve heard that young woman’s voice over the phone, even I got shaky. She sounded, the least to say, horrible. I offered her just a 10 hour exploratory session to open it all up and see if anything could be done. To everybody’s surprise, she was responding very well to the instruction and natural herbs, which I had provided for her sessions. Her mom, who was present in the room, said that it was fascinating to watch this transformation. 

I was asked right away if I could offer more hours while they were residing here in Toronto for 5 days. I said yes and increased her course to 16 hours. Then they left and I did not have much feedback on the post-course events. Incidentally, on one of the weekends, my husband and I ended up in their neck of the woods. We met up and I was very pleased to hear my former student’s voice which was very much so improved, but of course, was not fully back. The protocol for any voice disorder, especially of this severity, is a minimum of 30 to 40 hours of instruction and natural/holistic treatment. My former student now switched back her phone which she gave up talking on for the last year, until the completion of my Voice Repair course.

I think, by itself, it was a great victory.

However, to my huge disappointment, my former voice repair client still was not satisfied and kept repeating that she will only give me a reference when her voice will return fully. She only engaged, at best, on half of the protocol required. Yet, instead of acknowledging the huge victory, (at least 80% of improvement), she was stubbornly repeating over and over how her voice has not come back fully…

My response was that the gratitude and positive outlook on things would probably help her to recover her voice that much sooner. I am not sure, however, that I succeeded in my persuasion, unfortunately.  

And lastly, the very positive outcome of my American client who recently came to my studio for only 4 days and also for only 10 hours to fix her cyst on her throat and learn how to sing professionally. 

Not even half an hour to her first session with me, she inquired if I could give her more hours while she is here in town. I was able to accommodate 5 extra hours and complete the course with absolute success, however, with her understanding that she would need more hours and more treatment to be employed to achieve true and final success.

Therefore, she arranged me, now coming to her, to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and conduct yet another 20 hours of instruction and treatment. Thank God for her normalcy and understanding that the screws, so to speak, still have to be tightened and a new pattern of the application of her speaking and singing voice has to be totally established. 

So to conclude; the normalcy and balance of the person with some kind of a voice disorder, voice loss, or whatnot, has to be present first of all. The voice repair client should outline the realistic goal and enjoy getting there.

Tony Robins and I are in complete agreement with the latter.

Sometime ago, I received an e-mail from a, seem to be, very frustrated, aggressive and, probably, very loud in the past, woman. She was, sort of, inquiring about her damaged voice, but in the tone of her e-mail, there was a lot of anger and blame. As usual, I asked her if she wanted to speak on the phone, so I could hear her voice, first hand and then make my assumptions and outline the best course of action for her particular case to be.

She agreed and I dialed the number.

The minute she picked up the phone, she tried to “scream”, with her broken voice at me, blaming everybody and anybody and saying, with anger, that she could not scream anymore at her two teenage sons while they were on the field, playing soccer.

Go figure!

To me, even with her voice issue, she sounded very loud, rude and obnoxious, and also, interestingly enough, she, instead of wanting (for real) to fix her voice, wanted to learn a sign language…? Usually, people with a hearing impediment are using sign language, so, obviously, it should not be her deal.

It was extremely difficult to understand her, and I asked her if she had another number for me to call. She said yes, and submitted a new number to me. When I dialed (two times in a row), there was a machine.

So it was clear to me that she did not want to continue the conversation and thus, preferred, instead of embarking on the voice repair endeavour, remain to be silent. Perhaps, for her and people around her, it would not be a bad choice, I am sorry to say.

Maybe it was God’s way to quiet her down for a while. But dark jokes aside, her choices were all wrong.

Instead of being frustrated to the point of being rude and obnoxious to the people who genuinely wanted to help her, she should have been searching and researching for the actual vocal, and evidently, some emotional help.

It is indeed very sad that the emotions of some people have gotten the better of them and common sense is not prevailing over their emotional state. That’s where the holistic approach to the repair of the voice mechanics would take place. 

In the above described case, (Upon her understanding and agreement), I would need to work first on the root of her emotions and to work quite deeply, as the voice problem did not happen out of thin air. Her very extroverted and loud self, no doubt, caused at least 70% of the problem.

The stress itself could “close” the throat very easily, not to mention that the thyroid becomes inflamed and prevents the voice from going through. In the holistic teaching, there is a saying; that the thyroid represents suppressed emotions and hurts. My friend and associate herbalist likes to ask her clients, “What couldn’t you ‘swallow’ that it brought you to this condition?” 

Very true!!!

So the problem is psychological and emotionally induced, but it always manifests in the physical body. It usually attacks the weaker organs and the organs which are used the most. If this person’s, (described above), habitat and mission to be bossy, in control, forceful and loud, no wonder her first organ, which got affected, was her voice. 

My brother, who remains to be in Russia, was first married with also a very loud and controlling woman. Sometime ago, he divorced her, and when I asked why, (as she was his first love), he said that she was screaming too much. She did not take the break-up of the marriage very well and turned, nevertheless,  to chain smoking. Not too long ago, I spoke to my brother and asked him how she was doing. He answered that she had a stroke and could not speak at all! 

I still cannot get a grip with it, as I remember her being very “vocal” and very hyperactive, to say the least.

How uncanny is that?! 

But it is true and it is the fact.
Being a voice specialist, I totally understand the cause of the above described. And from the professional point of view, I am not surprised to that consequent; rather, on the contrary, I would be surprised if it did not happen. In her case, however, nobody would be able to help, as her speech center and both of her vocal cords are paralyzed completely.

The question is, could it be prevented? The answer is yes, but the person cannot remain ignorant and careless to their behavioral and health habits. 

We like to say in Russia; “The learning and repetition is the Mother of teaching”.

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