Ann describes possible swallowing problems

Signs of Swallowing Problems

In the video below, Ann talks about signs of swallowing problems, especially in Parkinson’s Disease. This is the third video Ann has created to help you understand speech and swallowing problems in Parkinson’s Disease. In the first video, Ann talks about speech changes in Parkinson’s and how using intent helps. To watch video 1, click here. The second video is titled “How to Protect Swallowing in Parkinson’s Disease” and you can watch it by clicking here.

Disordered swallowing, also known as dysphagia, is something people with Parkinson’s Disease often experience. How do you know if you have disordered swallowing, or dysphagia? Ann discusses signs of swallowing problems common in Parkinson’s, including chewing problems, fatigue, and even difficulty managing saliva. Ann uses a down-to-earth approach to compassionately provide facts about this topic. In her next video, she will talk about what to expect at a swallowing evaluation.

At The Sound Center, we see many people with Parkinson’s Disease. If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s, early treatment for speech and swallowing problems is recommended. Click here to learn about the speech treatments we provide to help people with PD and contact us to schedule an evaluation.

Ann explains swallowing and Parkinson's Disease

How to Protect Your Swallowing in Parkinson’s Disease

In this video, Ann shares three ways people with Parkinson’s Disease can improve and maintain their swallowing function. The third tip is the simplest and the most surprising!

At The Sound Center, we see many people with Parkinson’s Disease. Click here to learn about the speech treatments we provide to help people with PD. We can also help with swallowing problems, or dysphagia.

Contact us for more information or to schedule an evaluation.


We Treat Upper Airway Disorders

Treatment for Upper Airway Disorders

Person breathing easily. Photo by Kelvin Valerio:
We help people with upper airway disorders breathe easily again.

Everyone needs to breathe, but a collection of problems called upper airway disorders interfere with easy breathing. These problems are different than asthma. Inhalers and asthma medications are ineffective. However, if you have been diagnosed with an upper airway disorder, we can help!

It is possible to have asthma and an upper airway disorder. Your inhaler or asthma medications may give you partial relief. If you have asthma and an upper airway disorder, we can help!



Successful Treatment of Exercise Induced Laryngeal Obstruction in High School Basketball Player

Here is a link to a very good article about an upper airway disorder called exercise induced laryngeal obstruction, or EILO. It tells the story of a high school basketball player, Maya Austerman, who experienced tightness in her chest and throat, wheezing, and other symptoms. Sounds like asthma, right? This problem is often diagnosed as asthma, but in EILO, the vocal folds close during inhalation. Inhalers and asthma medications didn’t work for Maya. She was successfully treated by speech-language pathologist Claudio Milstein, PhD, CCC-SLP, of Cleveland Clinic, and safely returned to the basketball court.

Testing and Information about Upper Airway Disorders

To begin, if you or your loved one is struggling with breathing, see a doctor. Common tests for upper airway disorders include spirometry and laryngoscopy. These tests reveal specific characteristics that help with diagnosis.

As you learn more about your own condition, do research. The American Thoracic Society has a wealth of information about these disorders and more in their patient education information series. This page contains information about vocal cord dysfunction, inspiratory laryngeal obstruction, EILO, and more.

Finally, if an upper airway diagnosis has been made, we can help. We treat upper airway disorders, including:

  • Exercise induced laryngeal obstruction
  • Paradoxical vocal fold motion
  • Vocal cord dysfunction
  • Inspiratory laryngeal obstruction
  • Irritable larynx syndrome
  • Chronic cough
  • Chronic throat clearing

Contact us to schedule an assessment or for more information.


We can treat upper airway disorders. Photo by Tara Winstead:
Is breathing difficult? We treat upper airway disorders.


Parkinson Voice Project in Richmond, Texas

Parkinson’s News

A couple of interesting items we wanted to share:

  1. Tonight is the 15th Anniversary Celebration of Parkinson Voice Project, the non-profit organization that provides training for the therapy we do for people with Parkinson’s. SPEAK OUT! and LOUD Crowd! The webpage provides a mass of information that is helpful, inspiring, and educational. Check it out here and tune in tonight at 6:30 Central Time!
  2. One of the most frequent ideas we use in our SPEAK OUT! and LOUD Crowd sessions is to SPEAK WITH INTENT. A recent study looked at the frequency of feedback in communication interactions.
    • They compared the feedback messages provided by people with Parkinson’s versus people who don’t have Parkinson’s.
    • They found that people with Parkinson’s provided less feedback. You could say that the people with Parkinson’s communicated less than the people without Parkinson’s.
    • So, my take-away is that I need to encourage people in my SPEAK OUT! and LOUD Crowd therapy to SPEAK MORE!
Use intent to SPEAK MORE, and when you speak, SPEAK WITH INTENT!

Videoconference Style: Too Loud!

I have noticed for years that there is a natural tendency to talk more loudly on speaker phones, cell phones, and in video conferences. My theory is that whenever there is a reduction in the data we transmit as we communicate, we compensate with a louder voice.

Here are a few examples of what is lost as we use technology to transmit our voices:

  • Reduced fidelity: Phone conversations transmit a reduced fidelity of sound, specifically in the high frequencies. Some speech sounds, like “S” and “F” sound alike over the phone. Cutting this high-frequency energy can not only make some speech sounds indistinguishable, but important voice quality information is eliminated. The authors of this very interesting article posit that high frequency energy conveys information about voice quality, localization, and intelligibility.
  • Time lag: We also frequently deal with time lag. Even a brief moment of silence from the person on the other end can make us wonder if we have been heard at all. We might rush in to repeat or rephrase just as the other person responds. The lag may be in transmitting or receiving our message, or in the processing of the degraded signals, once received.
  • Video and audio out-of-sync: Video conference meetings can add to the confusion, especially if we have a slow signal and the video and audio are out of sync or periodically freeze. We can forget the purpose of the technology and experience stress.
  • Assumed acoustic reversibility. We tend to think that others hear the world as we do. But in an online meeting, our voice might be coming through loud and clear, but others may sound distorted or muted; and the opposite could be true; or we could all sound bad! This and three other unique differences between communication in-person versus over videoconference was discussed in a post titled “4 weird things that happen when you videoconference“.

So with these differences, we may speak more loudly. The cliché of the person yelling their message to someone who speaks a different language, as ineffective as it is, provides another example of the tendency to get louder when we are not understood.

Are you a loud talker in your Zoom calls? Is it a problem? Assess whether you regularly talk more loudly than needed. Ask people you trust if you do this. Notice your communication partners as you speak: Do they pull back when you are talking? Also, pay attention to how your throat feels during and after meetings. If it is sore, you may be talking louder than necessary.

For some, a bit of awareness is all they need to adjust to a more moderate level. For many, changing vocal behaviors is very difficult. We have years of experience helping people make their communication more effective, so if you need help with this or other issues, contact us.

The Sound Center Now Accepting United Health Care Plans

The Sound Center is now an in-network provider for the following health plans:

  • United Healthcare Medicare Solutions
  • UHC of Illinois
  • UHC-Navigate
  • UHC-Compass
  • UHC Charter
  • NexusACO NR
  • NexusACO R

We are also participating providers for Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO and Medicare.

We are happy to partner with these plans to help you receive the care you need. If you don’t see your plan listed above, contact us. New plans are being added.

The Sound Center welcomes Ann Kolker Rychel

We are pleased to welcome Ann Kolker Rychel, MA, CCC-SLP to The Sound Center! Ann joins The Sound Center as a speech-language pathologist offering therapy for:

  • Voice,
  • Speech,
  • Parkinson’s Disease, including SPEAK OUT! and LOUD Crowd,
  • Swallowing,
  • Language,
  • Cognition

More about Ann:
During her career as a speech-language pathologist, Ann Kolker Rychel has worked with adults in outpatient, sub-acute, inpatient, and inpatient rehabilitation settings. A curious and compassionate approach to therapy coupled with experience treating various speech, voice, and swallowing disorders allow her to guide and assist clients in meeting their goals. As an experienced classically trained singer, she brings unique perspectives and experience to speech and voice therapy. Ann earned a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology from Northern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Saint Xavier University. Ann is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as well as licensed in the state of Illinois.

Lockdown Throat

“Lockdown throat” is a brand-new term that has arisen out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not a symptom of the virus; Instead, it describes the sore, tight, or dry throat many are experiencing after a long day of remote meetings.

Have you noticed you talk more loudly when you are not face-to-face?

Researchers in Ireland are studying the effects of all of the loud talking we are doing these days. This sustained loud talking can take a toll on our throats. The researchers are conducting a survey to learn more about the specific issues people are experiencing.

There are a few basic practices that will protect you if your throat is bothering you:

  1. Stay hydrated and have a glass of water at hand.
  2. Warm up your voice. Don’t allow your video conference meetings to be the first time you use your voice. Don’t know how to warm up your voice? We can help!
  3. Sit tall.
  4. Schedule vocal breaks.
  5. Relax. If you are tense, your voice will suffer.
  6. Use the same vocal volume you would use if you were in a quiet room sitting about an arm’s length away from someone.

If you are unable to relieve your tired or hoarse voice with these tips, get in touch with us. You may have adapted habits of vocal tension or poor technique that would benefit from a session or two of voice therapy.



The Sound Center Receives Grant for Parkinson’s Therapy

Oak Brook, IL — The Sound Center has been awarded another grant to assist with Parkinson’s therapy programs.

The grant will support continued growth of SPEAK OUT!® and LOUD Crowd® treatment programs. These highly effective therapies improve voice and swallowing function in people with Parkinson’s Disease.

“People with Parkinson’s Disease often have voices that are hoarse, breathy, and monotone, and they may be difficult to understand” said Michelle Eppley, Speech-Language Pathologist and President of The Sound Center. “We want them to get their voices back. It is life-changing.”

The focus of these therapy programs is to convert speech from an automatic function to an intentional act. Once participants graduate from individual SPEAK OUT!® sessions, they attend ongoing weekly LOUD Crowd® group sessions. In these groups, they practice their exercises, keep each other motivated, and provide camaraderie.

The Parkinson Voice Project, which runs the grant program, is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the world solely dedicated to helping individuals with Parkinson’s improve their speech and swallowing.

With the support of Parkinson Voice Project, The Sound Center offers LOUD Crowd® sessions at no cost to participants. Currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SPEAK OUT!® sessions and LOUD Crowd® meetings are being held online through telehealth. Medicare and other insurers are covering individual Telehealth therapy sessions. Any person who has Parkinson’s Disease is invited to participate. Contact us.

YES! Medicare is covering telehealth speech therapy!

Great news for Medicare patients who have had to put speech therapy on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now allows telehealth services to Medicare Part B (outpatient) beneficiaries provided by speech-language pathologists.

The Sound Center, Inc., offers high-quality telehealth services and we are thrilled that CMS is covering speech and voice services for Medicare beneficiaries. We look forward to helping those who have had their treatment interrupted get back on track. New patients are also welcome.

Please contact us for more information.

For further reading, see the CMS press release.