Focus on Your Voice

World Voice Day

It’s World Voice Day! The theme this year is “Focus on Your Voice” and in the midst of the quarantine, you may find that you are using your voice more than usual on video conference meetings and phone calls. How is it holding up? Here are a few ideas to help you get your voice ready before your next meeting:

  1. Stay hydrated and have water nearby
  2. Warm up your voice.
  3. Move! Stretch and exercise to get your blood flowing and breath moving.
  4. Sit tall. Arrange your environment so you don’t have to slump to see your computer screen.
  5. Schedule vocal breaks
If you would like a more in-depth explanation of the above tips, including vocal warm-up ideas, contact us to request your copy of Top 5 Ways to Prepare for a Videoconference.

Many organizations are marking World Voice Day in amazing and creative ways. Check out these resources:

 

The LOUD Crowd® is now at The Sound Center

Michelle Eppley opening LOUD Crowd® materials

On October 16, 2019, we will host our first LOUD Crowd® group for people with Parkinson’s Disease. We are eager to get going with all of the materials provided through the grant offered by Parkinson Voice Project. The LOUD Crowd® is a weekly group therapy program for maintenance of strong voice learned in the SPEAK OUT!® program for individuals. For more information please call us at 630-435-5622 or email us at info@thesoundcenter.com.

The Sound Center, Inc. Receives Grant to Help People with Parkinson’s Disease

The Sound Center, Inc. has received a grant from Parkinson Voice Project. This grant will help bring the SPEAK OUT!® and LOUD Crowd® therapy programs to our area in the western suburbs of Chicago.

The Parkinson Voice Project’s mission is “to preserve the voices of individuals with Parkinson’s and related neurological disorders through intensive speech therapy, follow-up support, research, education, and community awareness.” This nonprofit organization, located in Richardson, Texas, aims to replicate their highly effective therapy programs throughout the world.

The therapy program involves two important steps: First, patients participate in SPEAK OUT!®,  an intensive one-on-one experience. Exercises for speech, voice and cognition are completed. Secondly, patients participate in the LOUD Crowd®. Participants work on their skills in a group setting. They also share information and experience camaraderie and accountability.

The Sound Center, Inc. is accepting clients who want to get started with the highly effective SPEAK OUT!® and LOUD Crowd® therapy programs now! Contact us for more information or to schedule a session. We accept Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO. Other insurance providers may also offer benefits for this treatment. Give us a call at 630-435-5622 or send us a message here.

Your Voice May Identify Serious Health Problems

Researchers have found biomarkers in the voice that identify certain diseases, including mental health disorders, central nervous system problems, and even heart issues!

What can be detected in a voice? Emotions? Our physical state? Our level of confidence? Yes to all!

Makes sense, right? If we feel sanguine or sad, others know it after only hearing us speak a few words. Likewise, if we are worn out or wired, self-assured or filled with self-doubt, our voices tell the tale.

Voice Bio-WHAT?

But would you believe that researchers are exploring ways that our voices can indicate disorders and diseases? They have identified people with post-traumatic stress disorder, coronary artery diesase, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other problems. They use voice biomarkers, which are acoustic measures of the voice signal.

Blood, Urine and VOICE SAMPLE?

As you talk to Siri or Alexa, consider that someday your voice might be used as a key indicator of your health. Currently, you may use your voice to initiate web searches, operate devices, and connect with others. But imagine that for a routine physical, you have blood drawn, vitals taken, and finally, submit a voice sample for acoustic analysis!

Reality Check

I am an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) passionate about voice. Over the years, I have investigated a dizzying number of acoustic voice measures. But even with all of this data, we have yet to find definitive identifiers of specific voice disorders. However, SLPs are often the first professionals to suspect neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. We are experienced in listening to the voice characteristics that often accompany this disease: For instance, we may notice fast rushes of speech, reduced loudness, and reduced precision of articulation that are hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease. We have been trained to use our ears for this rather than acoustic analysis.

Therefore, I wonder about the measures used in the studies mentioned above. I will be diving deeper into the research, and will tell you more as I learn.

More Information for You

As a footnote, if you or a loved one has speech or voice concerns, contact us. We accept Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO and are experts in treating many speech and voice problems, including Parkinson’s disease. Read more about Speak OUT!™, the highly effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

A New Voice

There’s a strong new voice for people who have multiple sclerosis or spasmodic dysphonia. This voice belongs to the talented actress, Selma Blair. She was recently interviewed by Robin Robinson on Nightline and Vanity Fair magazine. She certainly had a lot to say about living with MS and SD, being authentic, and learning to see others with compassion.

Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder that originates in the brain. It causes spasms in the larynx which interrupt the voice. As a result, the voice may sound breathy or strained and choppy. It can also sound variably breathy and strained, depending on the type of SD. You can listen to examples of different types of spasmodic dysphonia at the website for the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association here. Also, if you listen to the Selma Blair interview, you will hear the undulating sound of her voice, which is likely a vocal tremor. Vocal tremor is common in people with SD, and occurs in about one third of people with SD.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Selma Blair calls it a “snowflake disease;” this is because MS is different in everyone who has it. While voice problems can occur, many people with MS have normal voices. Much more information about MS is available at the website of the National MS Society here.

It’s well worth your time to watch the Robin Robinson interview and read the Vanity Fair article.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a voice change, disorder, or difficulty, contact us, We want to hear your story, provide resources, and help in any way we can.

Auditory perception–How well can you hear yourself?

If you are trying to change an aspect of your sound—be it related to accent, voice quality, articulation, phrasing, or tone of voice, you need to be able to hear yourself accurately to be successful.  Many people are alarmed when they hear how they sound on a recording.  Auditory perception, or improving your awareness of sound, is a necessary step in learning any new speech motor skill.

As many of us learned in the recent “Yanny” versus “Laurel” debate, auditory perception is subject to individual difference. Here is a link to a nice YouTube video (with a shout out to an awesome speech scientist, Brad Story), that discusses reasons for this perceptual confusion, including acoustic properties and listener’s age. Despite the debate, you can improve your auditory perceptual skills. You might start with listening to and describing others’ voices and speech patterns. Of course, your observations probably best kept to yourself unless they are positive!

It’s more difficult to develop accurate auditory perception of our own voices. Why? Because we hear our own voices differently than others hear it.  We hear it internally via bone conduction and externally via air conduction.  If you plug your ears and talk you may not hear the sounds around you, but you can hear your own talking.

Here are three ideas to improve your auditory perception:

  1. As mentioned above, listen carefully to the sound of others.  Observe their voices and speech patterns.
  2. Record yourself and observe what you hear.  Prepare to feel uneasy but trust the process.
  3. Tune into how your speech and voice feels.  Exaggerate the sound you wish to change and focus on it with curiosity.  Experience its quality, movement, vibration, opening, and points of contact.  Notice how the sound changes if you adjust your tongue position, mouth opening, breathing, or other speech-related action.

After you connect the dots between the sound of your recorded voice versus your spoken voice and the feeling of your voice versus the sound, and you have developed your ear to more keenly perceive others’ voices, challenge yourself further:  Be aware of your sound as you speak.  Of course, speech is first and foremost about communication—don’t analyze your voice all of the time.  But in select situations, with certain people, or a few minutes several times a day, tune in and become an expert on your own sound.

Almost all of my clients need a nudge to take the steps of recording themselves, listening, and experimenting, yet they say it is one of the most valuable exercises they have done. Ever. We can make it easy. Contact us for more information.