Voice Center treats those who rely
it the case of the hoarse auctioneer.
professionally on having a good set of pipes
Professor of Voice Bonnie Pomfret remembers a middle-aged
client for whom performing the requisite twenty
dollars, twenty, twenty, give me twenty, do I hear thirty
spiel had become almost impossible.
have to do something resembling continual chanting, and
he was getting hoarse and nearly losing his voice,
Pomfret says. It was getting worse and he didnt
know what to do.
auctioneers, singers, talk show hosts, disc jockeys, actors,
telephone operators, motivational speakers, and politicians
(think of Bill Clintons rasp after giving too many
campaign speeches in a row), hoarseness or laryngitis
isnt just an inconvenienceits a threat
to their livelihood.
is very important for everyone, but many people dont
realize that ones voice can be improved, says
Pomfret, a freelance solo soprano who taught voice at
Emory College for seven years and now works at Emorys
Voice Center. There is a skill component.
Voice Center, which opened in September 2003 in the Medical
Office Tower of Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta,
is equipped to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate those
with voice disorders, especially professionals who use
their voices to make a living. The center has several
specialists on staff, including laryngologists, speech
language pathologists, and voice therapists.
M. Johns III, director of the center and an assistant
professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, received
his training at Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt. Our
voice is something we tend to take for granted until it
is lost, he says. Then we realize fairly abruptly
that it is the primary way we communicate.
patients have voice disorders caused by underlying physical
problems that require medical treatment or surgery, such
as vocal fold polyps, nodules, or cysts; benign and malignant
tumors of the larynx; acid reflux laryngitis; paralyzed
or scarred vocal folds; and muscle tension or spasms.
took care of a fellow who traveled nationally giving financial
seminars to large audiences, Johns recounts. His
voice literally broke. He felt something happen in his
voice box and he became acutely hoarse. Hed actually
had a vocal cord hemorrhage that turned into a polyp on
his vocal fold. He wasnt sure what was going on
for years. After a diagnostic study at the center, he
had microsurgery and was home for a week on voice rest.
Therapy restored him to his normal voice.
clients seek help in dealing with a common phobiafear
of public speaking.
of our newest therapies uses virtual reality to create
the experience of an audience, Johns says. Many
of our patients are teachers, salespeople, executives,
and singers who must speak or perform in front of large
groups of people. Vocal behaviors change in front of a
Hapner, assistant professor of otolaryngology and a voice
therapist at the center, says the new virtual reality
technology gives patients the opportunity to practice
newly learned skills in front of an audience
in the convenient and safe environment of the lab, with
the therapist close by for immediate feedback.
who has sung across the United States and Asia with orchestras,
works largely with professional or avocational singers
at the center. Their number-one complaint is hoarseness,
followed by voice fatigue and loss of high notes.
they just notice they cant make it through a rehearsal
or performance the way they could before, Pomfret
says. You can certainly train for better endurance
and better technique.
for the auctioneer? Pomfret is happy to report that his
voice got better after five or six sessions of breathing
and relaxation exercises.
voice techniques is like building a house from the foundation
up, she says. You cant skip the basics.M.J.L.