Current Treatment and Research on Spasmodic Dysphonia

At the 1998 Pacific Voice Conference I presented cures of SD by Direct Voice Rehabilitation (DVR). I presented cures of people who had been diagnosed with the most severe SD by the UCLA Medical Center’s Head and Neck Division, considered as one of the foremost hospitals and medical centers in the world.

The SD diagnoses were made by some of the Medical Center’s Head and Neck Division’s top physicians, including Dr. Paul Ward, ENT, who was the chairman of the Medical Center’s Head and Neck Division preceding the present chairman, Dr. Gerald Berke.

For instance, Berke diagnosed Gayle Pace as having Adductor/Abductor SD. She was cured under my care by DVR. Pace remains cured of SD twelve years after my program of DVR. Ward diagnosed Marjorie Whitman with SD so severe, Dr. Ward recommended surgery. Whitman declined. She recovered a normal voice by DVR. Rev. Henry Sellers reports that Dr. Berke had diagnosed him as having a focal laryngeal dystonia (SD). Rev. Sellers was also cured and remains cured by DVR. Dr. Berke diagnosed SD for Mr. Robin. Botox was advised. Mr. Robin opted for DVR and is cured of SD.

The litany of cures by DVR is extensive. It includes Rev. James Johnson, diagnosed by the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Arnold Aronson as having very severe SD. Rev. Johnson was told to have surgery. He declined, tried an intensive one-month program of DVR, and still remains cured of SD over 17 years later.

There are other cures by my program of DVR, for those whom other ENTs associated with the UCLA Medical Center Head and Neck Division had diagnosed as SD. These ENTs and their SD patients include:

  • Dr. Hans Von Leden, ENT: Professor T., plus another patient cured of SD by DVR, 30 & 15 years respectively.
  • Dr. HJ Rubin, ENT: four cases, all cured by DVR over a period of years.
  • Dr. Robert Feder, ENT: one case, cured, with the cure still remaining over twenty-plus years later.
  • Dr. Ed Kantor ENT: two cases, whose cures have now lasted over fifteen and twenty-plus years.

With these dramatic 15 cures alone involving UCLA Medical Center, and since SD is ostensibly incurable, some have asked, “Well, did these people really have SD?” I can only say that the top ENTs at UCLA Medical Center, “the best in the west”, diagnosed the SD cases I worked on in my private practice. There is no doubt: these people had SD.

An ENT professor on the UCLA Medical Faculty in the Head and Neck Division referred his wife who was diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia (SD) outside the medical center to Dr. Mort Cooper’s private practice. She regained a normal voice through Direct Voice Rehabilitation (DVR). Today the UCLA Medical Center offers only Botox or surgery for SD patients without affording them the option of DVR. But not with my wife, you don’t. Double standard?

  • Over three years ago, the Scripps ENT Clinic in La Jolla diagnosed Ginger, a young lady in her 20’s with Spasmodic Dysphonia. She was told that her condition was hopeless and that she required lifelong series of Botox shots. Dr. Cooper’s intensive program of DVR, gave Ginger a normal effective voice and she has remained cured of her SD.
  • Lisa and Don were diagnosed with SD by Ed Kantor, ENT, affiliated with UCLA Medical Center Head and Neck Division and Cedars Sinai ENT Division. Lisa was cured of SD working with Morton Cooper, Ph.D. respectively 21 years ago and Don has been cured for12 years.
  • R.B. had different ENTs diagnose SD. He was told his SD was hopeless. He found Dr. Cooper and remains cured of SD for 25 years.
  • Zelda was diagnosed by Robert Feder, ENT, affiliated with UCLA Head and Neck Division and a former Chair of that ENT group at Cedars Sinai; he advised surgery. She declined. Zelda found Dr. Cooper and is cured of SD over 16 years.
  • Professor T. was diagnosed with SD in 1973 by Dr. Hans von Leden, who served on the UCLA and USC Head and Neck faculty. Professor T. underwent a program of DVR with Dr. Cooper. He remains cured for over 30 years. Another SD patient diagnosed by Dr. Hans von Leden remains cured for over 15 years.
  • Luana Hess, M.D., was diagnosed with severe SD by her ENT doctor. Dr. Hess underwent a program of intensive DVR. Dr. Hess remains cured of her problem 3 years later.
  • Identical twins, were diagnosed with SD at a well-known Medical Center: One with adductor and abductor, the other with adductor. Both tried Botox. One twin reports life-threatening negative symptoms. Both underwent Dr. Cooper’s intensive DVR program. Both have successfully found fine voices. They were told their SD was due to genes and incurable.
  • Denise Proudfoot tried four Botox shots for her diagnosed SD from Dr. Gerald Berke. She prayed for another way. She found Dr. Cooper. In a short time, she was 95% better by Dr. Cooper’s DVR program.
  • Ms. S was diagnosed with SD by various ENTs. She tried Botox shots, years of psychotherapy, four speech therapists and remained a severe spasmodic case. After suffering for 34 years with SD, DVR afforded this patient a clear normal voice within a month of intensive DVR.
  • Laurie Wolf was recommended to take Botox shots for her suspected SD condition by Dr. Daniel Troung. She declined. She underwent a program of DVR and has been cured of her voice problem for over 3 years.
  • Kim Engstrom tried 2 Botox shots. She was left with bowed vocal cords and no voice. She tried a month of intensive DVR. She has had a perfectly normal voice for over 3 years.

The medical profession, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA) guarantee that spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is incurable.

Henry Fonda, Shadoe Stevens and Keith Erickson were cured of spasmodic dysphonia by my DVR program. Fonda went on to do On Golden Pond.

Spastic Dysphonia and Spasmodic Dysphonia (SD) are among the most debilitating of all voice disorders. The condition of a strangled, strained voice was first described in 1871 by Traube.

The current treatment for SD is injections of a substance called botulinum toxin (Botox) or surgery. In 1991, at Irvine, CA, at a major meeting on SD, a leading medical doctor, fearing the long-term effects of Botox, asked that this treatment be withdrawn at the earliest possible time in favor of another substance. Serious negative effects following the use of Botox have been reported by patients (documentation on website).

In the December, 1999 National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association Newsletter, page 7, Dr. Gerald Berke, Chairman of UCLA Head and Neck Division reports regarding Botox (botulinum toxin):

...there are some obvious drawbacks. It requires lifelong visits from 4 to 10 times per year for repeat injections. The injections are not inexpensive. The interval between post injection breathiness, good voice, and the return of symptoms may not be very long in some patients. Hypersensitivity and antibody formation have been shown to produce some long term structural changes in muscle cells.

My approach to these so-called “hopeless” voice disorders is changing the voice through Direct Voice Rehabilitation (DVR). For the past thirty plus years, I have successfully treated patients with these conditions; from my experience, SD is caused by voice misuse and abuse, not by neurological factors.

In 1982, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Hospital, I presented patients with confirmed severe SD who told of recovering their speaking voices by DVR. In 1990, I again presented cures and recoveries at Cedars Sinai Medical Hospital.

The late Henry J. Rubin, a well-known ENT specialist, asked during the presentation: "We know that you are the only one successful by speech therapy. Why?" The answer is, “I do not do speech therapy; I do Direct Voice Rehabilitation.”

In 1973, Dr. Rubin commented in my textbook Modern Techniques of Vocal Rehabilitation:

In the fifteen years immediately preceding my retirement from the active practice of otolaryngology, I have referred my patients in need of voice rehabilitation to Dr. Cooper because his results proved to be the most consistently satisfactory. His methods seemed essentially to be quite simple, in fact to the point sometimes of challenging believability, but they worked. He explains these methods in his book, and I believe that any voice therapist who gives them a serious and unbiased trial will be agreeably surprised.

In 1993 he wrote to me:

The medical and speech professions may continue to deny your obvious successes, but it is because of unfamiliarity with what you actually do. Ignorance of your methods breeds fear, and that equates with resistance and denial.

James Suen, ENT doctor to former President Bill Clinton says that Dr. Cooper’s book Stop Committing Voice Suicide is “constructive criticism.” The book details the medicalization of voice problems and reviews ongoing cures of all types of SD by Dr. Cooper’s DVR. I also published my cures and recoveries from SD in a peer-reviewed report in the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatry in 1980.

SD is curable by DVR. SD is not a dystonia or medical problem. If you suffer from SD, you have the choice to treat it through DVR, though the medical field and ASHA decline to tell you so.

These are but a few cases that I cite to indicate successes of SD of all types by DVR. I am grateful to my patients for permission to release their names and/or files to document and confirm cures, recoveries, and/or improvements from SD by DVR. I am also grateful to the doctors who have availed themselves of my services to assist their patients by DVR.

I believe that any patient who has been diagnosed with SD, suspected SD or any other voice disorder should be apprised of Direct Voice Rehabilitation as a potential and possible cure, recovery or improvement, especially since treatment is non-invasive, and dramatic results may be observed after a brief period of treatment.

I have written chapters for professional handbooks and have published in medical/scientific journals on voice and voice disorders. My experience includes being on the Staff and Faculty of UCLA Medical Center, Head and Neck Division, serving as Director of its Voice and Speech Clinic. I have been in private practice for 35 years. I have presented cures of SD at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in 1974, 1989 and 2000.

Chapters from my latest book, Stop Committing Voice Suicide, on SD and other troubled voices, are on my website. Articles on SD and DVR as well as testimonials can be seen on my website.

For those interested in the cures, recoveries, and/or improvements of SD by DVR, an audio and a video of my SD patients before and after DVR are available.

This handout is intended to provide meaningful information for educated judgment regarding SD and other troubled voices using DVR. I welcome your views and comments.

MORTON COOPER, Ph.D.