This is the story of my recovery, the cure of my own voice problem, and the realization that many others have voice problems. People go from doctor to doctor, getting lotions, potions, medications, injections, and surgeries without curing their voice problems.
Those who hear me today tell me how lucky I am to have been born with a great voice. I wasn't born with a great voice, however. I developed it through a long journey of time and practice until I figured out how to achieve an excellent voice simply and directly.
Today, I am known as the "Voice Doctor to the Stars" after working with celebrities such as Kirk Douglas, Anne Bancroft, Henry Fonda, Richard Crenna, Cheryl Ladd, Harold Robbins, Joan Rivers, Dennis Weaver, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Rob Lowe, Lucille Ball, Diahann Carroll, O.J. Simpson, Rosy Grier, and Shadoe Stevens, to name a few. (These wonderful people were kind enough to allow me to use their names to make the public aware of voice problems and voice help.)
It all started years ago…
I lost my voice years ago while I was in college. My voice was poor to begin with and the help I received to improve it resulted in losing my voice. My voice would last for five minutes; I had a burning sensation in my throat and it was extremely difficult to talk.
I saw 12 doctors without finding relief. I was told to live with my voice problem since it was said to be due to genes, heredity, neurological factors, postnasal drip, allergies, or stress.
Then I was referred to a psychiatrist whose philosophy was that I should become adjusted to my voice problem. The doctor himself had a failing voice which he attributed to genes or heredity. I fled his office.
The 13th doctor I consulted knew immediately that I was misusing my voice. I had gone from a nasal baritone voice to a deep-throat bass voice, sounding like a clone of Henry Kissinger. The doctor wanted to know why I was talking so deep-throat and low-pitched. I told him two professors in the college speech department had directed me to that voice.
I obtained some relief from the doctor's direction, but continued to experience voice problems until I entered the field of speech pathology and became my own voice therapist. Eventually I found the secrets of the speaking voice and the simplicities involved in producing an efficient, well-used, untiring, star-quality speaking voice.
Identifying the Problem
After doing graduate work in voice at Indiana University (M.A.), Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), (Ph.D.), I realized my voice problem had been early or beginning spastic dysphonia.
In my textbook, Modern Techniques of Vocal Rehabilitation, I differentiated between full-blown, developed spastic dysphonia and the early form of spastic dysphonia which I labeled "Incipient Spastic Dysphonia".
Spastic or spasmodic dysphonia is a strangled voice that sounds as if a person is being choked. The voice is out of control. Spasmodic dysphonia (in contrast to spastic dysphonia) is a dysphonia that comes and goes depending upon the person, place, or situation. With spastic dysphonia, as the name implies, the strangled voice remains steady, out of control, and essentially choked at all times.
Never, while on the faculty and staff at the UCLA Mdical Center, Head and Neck Division (1961-1970), did I read of a single cure for spastic or spasmodic dysphonia. The condition was considered hopeless by physicians and speech pathologists since the cause was found to be neurological by medical research and speech pathologists.
I presumed that the negative prognosis for voice improvement (let alone a cure) for spastic or spasmodic dysphonia (SD) was accurate. For years I followed the traditional pattern of treatment for this condition. There were no recoveries, no cures.
A New Approach
In 1970, after leaving UCLA to go into private practice, I changed my approach using a technique called Direct Voice Rehabilitation, which I developed and used to help patients with other voice disorders. To my amazement, SD patients responded to direct voice rehabilitation. Looking to my extensive clinical experience with SD patients, I found that the onset and condition of the problem was due to voice misuse and/or abuse with psychological overtones.
As soon as I began speaking and writing about recoveries and cures from SD, I was told the patients I had helped were not suffering from SD. The medical establishment almost across-the-board insisted that SD is incurable since it is neurological. My response was that these patients were diagnosed as having severe SD by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN; Stanford University; UCLA Medical Center; and by some of the foremost laryngologists in the country.
My approach to SD is simple and direct. It involves natural self-help by the patient, no surgery, no botulinum toxin, no risk, and no downside effect.
The Truth about Botox
The main form of approach in treating SD medically is by using an injection of botulinum toxin, a poisonous substance now called Botox, a sugar-coated term for poison. Botulinum toxin is injected into one or both vocal cords, creating a temporary paralysis in an attempt to stop the strangulated voice and the strain in producing it.
This injection was said at first to last nine months. However, there is great variability in patients, and some have been taking the injections within two weeks at times. No one knows the downside effect of botox on the body.
At major SD meetings, the discussion centers about whether the poison should be injected into one or both vocal cords. The purpose of the injections is to reduce the symptoms; there is no discussion about cures for SD. However, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved use of this substance for treatment of SD.
One of the leading neurologists at a recent meeting concerning SD asked that Botox poison be withdrawn at the earliest possible time in favor of another substance, but this statement has not appeared in journals or newsletters nor has it been discussed at major SD meetings that I have attended.
Real Results Get Ignored
In order to inform physicians, speech pathologists, and the general public that there is hope for hopeless SD voices, I produced an audio and a video of a number of SD patients "before and after" direct voice rehabilitation, demonstrating their recoveries and cures by my approach. I have presented my recovered SD patients at various professional meetings in the past, but of late have been rejected time and again.
The American Speech- Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) continues to ignore cures and recoveries from SD. They state, "At present, there is no cure for spasmodic dysphonia." (ASHA, November 1993, p. 65)
Why? Christy L. Ludlow, Ph.D., chief of the voice and speech section of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) said, "Voice therapy is not a cure-all." (Our Voice, Fall-Winter, 1993, p. 4) In contrast, Professor Arnold Aronson, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic, has publicly acknowledged my cures of SD.
Ludlow's program using botox has not produced a single cure for SD that I am aware of. In fact, one patient from NIDCD, who had received 12 botox shots covering eight years and was unable to talk, recovered her voice with intensive direct voice rehabilitation, saying that on a scale of 10 she judged her voice to be a nine.
Change is Possible
I have been published widely in medical, scientific, and popular journals as well as textbooks, telling of my procedure and successful results involving all types of voices and voice problems.
A study I did involving hoarse voices with 155 patients found that 150 were using too low a pitch, lower throat resonance, and poor breath support. A follow-up of 128 patients found 98 percent remained good to excellent seven years following the completion of direct voice rehabilitation.
Almost all bad or failing voices are easy to change for the better by direct voice rehabilitation, but patient cooperation is essential. If people are looking for better voices or they have voices that are failing or hoarse, they may achieve their wish by simple, direct voice help. There is hope for almost all voices, including so-called hopeless voices.