#29  The Singing Voice Rehabilitation Specialist

A fine book for those who work with singers with voice injuries or pathologies has just been published by Delmar Press,  Singing Voice Rehabilitation, A Guide for the Voice Teacher and the Speech-Language Pathologist,  by Karen Wicklund, DM, MHS, CCC-SLP.   

Dr. Wicklund has written a useful text which is intended to inform both voice teachers and speech- language pathologists. This is a great resource in that it provides important information and guidance about the rehabilitation of the singing voice beyond what the speech-language pathologist is prepared to provide. It offers good guidance for creating a logical progression for reintegrating the singing voice following an injury or illness in the form of specially designed modules that address the recovering singerís needs. 

When a singer injures their singing voice the sequence for the diagnosis and treatment of a vocal injury  begins with a trip to an Ear Nose Throat MD (ENT) for a  laryngeal examination.  This is usually a fairly simple exam in which a small scope is inserted up the nose and down the back of the throat to view the vocal folds. This is an excellent vantage point for the ENT to observe the vocal folds and the adjacent tissues and itís likely the ENT will make a diagnosis from his observations as well as make recommendations for treatment. Treatment may involve a specified number of sessions with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).  Since the SLPís protocols  are primarily created for nonsingers itís important that the restoration of the singing voice occurs in a similarly systematic way with the assistance of the voice teacher following the work with the SLP.

How to translate the SLPs nonsinging goals for rehabilitation into singing goals for the singer is the challenge.  Itís important that the voice teacher has a good understanding of the SLPs methodology and is cognizant of providing an organized approach when assisting the recovering singer.  This new middle ground between the speech-language pathologist and the voice teacher has been coined by Dr. Wicklund as a Singing Voice Rehabilitation Specialist and is part of the new field of Vocology, "the science and practice of voice habilitation,Ē which  advances research applicable to the training and health of singers.    

Dr. Wicklundís experience both as a voice teacher and speech-language pathologist gives special insight as to how to develop protocols for a singerís recovery. She understands the procedures and practices for habilitation of the healthy singing voice and rehabilitation of the injured singing voice from the SLP point of view and is able to translate these practices into recovery processes applicable for singers. 

Included in the book are exercises for different categories of  vocal injuries or pathologies:  hyper phonation, hypo phonation,  post-surgical and remedial recoveries. Also within the book are therapeutic vocal exercises and rehabilitative repertoire recommendations in both the musical theater and classical vocal music genres.  Incorporated at the end of the text is a wonderful set of 12 appendixes including one by Dr. Sataloff on common medications and their effects on the singing voice.

Itís gratifying to see this new field developing which is so important to the recovery of singersí voices.  As criteria for credential programs are being devised by the NATS organization Iíll keep you notified of  training programs. 



Try this:

If your singing voice feels injured  be very conservative in how you use it.  Take a wise step and make an appointment with an ENT.  The exam will usually give you a concise diagnosis which is the first step in planning for your singing voice rehabilitation.

In the meantime,  here are some good thoughts for maintaining a healthy singing voice:

Always keep your voice well hydrated.   For every ten pounds of body weight drink a half glass of water a day.  120 lbs. = 6 glasses per day.

Be careful about talking or singing in overly noisy environments.

Create good habits of speech and posture.

Donít smoke.

Enjoy a healthy diet and avoid drying elements such as caffeine and alcohol.

Find the right range (neither too high or too low) and tessitura (where the majority of pitches are written) for your singing.

Generate these good habits, and--

Have a healthy singing voice!