Saturday, 15 April 2017

Confessions of a speech and language therapist.

April 16th is World Voice Day.

Ever since I was a speech therapy student (we added the 'language' bit later) I have worked with people with voice problems and now specialize in that particular area of SLT.

My voice patients vary hugely. The youngest was two and a half and the oldest some ninety years older. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicity. Some are professional voice users, others not. Anyone can have a voice problem.

I take my work very seriously but there are a few smiles along the way. I had to keep a straight face when one lady told me that the doctor was quite wrong telling her she had noodles in her throat, as that wasn't possible because she never ate noodles, horrible things. She meant nodules. Nothing to do with what you eat but often related to shouting. Which she did quite a lot. She answered her phone in my clinic to speak to her son and I almost lost my hearing.

I still wonder whether I irrevocably ruined one singer's career. He assured me he always drank a special concoction before a performance 'because it coats my vocal cords making it easier to sing.' I forbore to point out that it had obviously lost its efficacy as he was in my clinic - but instead gave him a little anatomy lesson. If his miracle drink ever went near his vocal cords he would be coughing and spluttering and wouldn't sound much good. He seemed quite devastated with my explanation, having been quite sure that his vocal cords were positioned vertically in his larynx along which the liquid would slide neatly down to his stomach. Without his placebo - can he still sing? Gargles don't act on the vocal cords either, by the way.

I asked one lady, who had very mild dysphonia (voice problem), whether her voice prevented her from carrying out any activities. 'Not really,' she replied, then said, 'I am a bit upset about not being able to sing in the supermarket.' She added 'you know, when you just want to burst into song in the supermarket? I often do that. It cheers me up.'

She and I do not shop at the same place, or at least not at the same time, because I have never heard snatches of song whilst shopping. Children yelling sometimes, but singing, no. I wasn't sure whether restoring her voice would go down well with her fellow shoppers or not!

Another patient who worked in a supermarket (was it the same one?) was surprised to see me when I was picking up a few things for dinner, and asked if I had come to check up on how she was using her voice at work. I reassured her I was just doing some shopping (thank goodness I wasn't buying six bottles of gin and multi-packs of chocolate!) But what a job that would be - I'd get to quite a few places. In the last few months I'd have been visiting schools - a lot, theatres, night-clubs, fitness classes (perhaps I should!), shops, hairdressers, taken bus rides and taxi rides, visited the The Old Bailey, and The House of Lords to name but a few.

Teachers sometimes admit to shouting to their pupils to keep the noise down but I wasn't expecting to one patient's explanation for her hoarse voice. 'I have to shout at the lions.' But it all in a day's work when you're Lion Keeper at a wildlife park! Checking up on her at work would have been a jolly day out for me. Must get that written into the job description.

At one hospital, I saw a patient who was an anaesthetist at the same hospital. She popped in for her appointment wearing her theatre greens. 'Will I be more than an hour? I've got to extubate someone in about 70 minutes. They've got my mobile number if there's a problem in the meantime, so I might have to dash.' She wasn't kidding, but there was of course, another anaesthetist to hand! (In case you are concerned about H&S - she would have changed into new theatre greens on her return. Now they are no longer worn outside theatres at all!)

I thoroughly enjoyed the scene in the waiting area when another of my clients turned up for his appointments in his work clothes. He was a specialist tribute singer. Other patients were a little surprised to find themselves sitting next to a very convincing Elvis.

There's never a dull moment!

If you are interested in finding out more about World Voice Day or want to know what a larynx looks like, take a look at the website.

More information about the voice and its care can be found on The British Voice Association website.

PS: Note to writers: It's vocal cords, not chords.






3 comments:

Wendy's Writing said...

Thanks for sharing this, Lindsay - it was a fascinating insight into your job and I'm still chuckling about the lady who sings in the supermarket. What a great idea!

Joanna said...

I really enjoyed reading this, Lindsay - how interesting and varied your patients are and what wonderful work you do. I especially loved the noodles! xxx

Patsy said...

I was also under the impression that if we drank something, it would touch our vocal cords. Not sure where I got that idea from.