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Archive for September, 2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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