In November, Derek Isetti ’08, PhD, CCC-SLP, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, and Eric G. Waldon, PhD, MT-BC, associate professor of music therapy, presented “Vocal Health Mindfulness: Care and Proper Handling for Music Therapists” at the 2017 American Music Therapy National Conference in St. Louis. While their presentation was directed toward music therapists, their recommendations are applicable to all health care professionals who rely on their voices to clearly communicate with their patients.
“Just as a professional violinist would never leave his or her instrument out in the rain or play nonstop until the strings fray, professional voice users need to protect their voices as if they were expensive instruments,” said Dr. Isetti. “An average female has vocal folds that vibrate at around 225 times per second. That vibration occurs so quickly that you can’t even see it with the naked eye. No other tissue in the human body sustains that kind of repetitive collision force and so it’s important to be aware of how miraculous our voices truly are.”
Dr. Isetti demonstrates how to use a vocal scope
It can be easy to take vocal health for granted. “Something that people should be aware of is that if any voice problem persists for two weeks or longer, an appointment should be made with an otolaryngologist (ENT),” Dr. Isetti said. “An extremely abrupt change in vocal quality after a traumatic event, such as loud screaming or cheering, could signal a vocal hemorrhage. This is considered a vocal emergency, and so the two-week rule doesn’t apply. In that case, immediate voice rest is recommended and an appointment with an ENT should be made as soon as possible.”
Before pursuing speech-language pathology, Dr. Isetti was immersed in the world of music theater. He traveled the country in four national tours and performed in Cabaret on Broadway. “I think I’m drawn to this area because of my background in performing,” he said. “In the world of music theater, we have understudies and standbys who can take over a role if a lead loses their voice. Of course, no performer wants to miss a show, so I was immersed in a world where voice care was at the forefront of people’s minds. I think I’m simply trying to infuse this mindset into other professions as well.”
Tips for Caring for Your Voice
Get your vocal folds scoped. Pacific students who are currently experiencing voice complaints can get a free scoping at the Pacific Speech, Hearing and Language Center campus. Learn more or contact Dr. Isetti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay hydrated. Vocal folds function at their best when your whole body is hydrated. Limit caffeine intake and check your medications. Many over-the-counter cold or flu remedies contain decongestants that dehydrate the delicate tissue of your vocal folds.
Manage acid reflux, which can harm vocal fold tissue and lead to lesions.
Love to sing? Learn proper technique from an instructor. “I can’t stress the importance of formal singing training though for those who will be doing some singing either for pleasure or related to their jobs,” Dr. Isetti said. “No online videos can take the place of a skilled singing instructor when it comes to discovering whether or not you are using proper technique.”
Budget voice use through the week so that your vocal folds have an opportunity to heal.
Voice disorders can be considered a disability under the law, explore what job-related accommodations employees can provide. “Something like a portable amplification device is an accommodation that can be life-changing for individuals like teachers and music therapists,” Dr. Isetti said. Learn more.
See a professional. “For those who are experiencing vocal issues, (hoarseness, fatigue, breathiness, strain, roughness, lack of volume) I can’t stress the importance of a thorough voice evaluation with an ENT and a speech-language pathologist. Again, there’s really no substitute for an individual speech therapy plan that is catered towards a person’s own voice difficulties.”
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold