Studies show that you will say thousands of words today. For some, like teachers or singers, using their voice is central to their livelihood.
Losing their voice would be a crisis.
“Speech is automatic, until we run into problems,” says Allison Alpers, Fairview speech-language pathologist and voice therapist. “Then it’s a big problem.”
Allison knows what it’s like, and works with patients to help them get their voice back.
A trained singer, Allison didn’t always have her voice when she needed it.
“I’ve been sick during performances and had to work hard to produce any sound,” says Allison. “It helps me understand where our patients are coming from, how important their voice is to them, and how frustrating it is to lose it.”
Losing a voice happens for a variety of reasons: from flu-related laryngitis and gastric reflux to vocal cord dysfunction and even neurological conditions.
Sometimes, it’s simply lost due to overuse or bad habits that develop over time.
Doctors help treat any medical conditions that create the voice loss. Voice therapists then work with patients on targeting problems with voice production.
"I work with the way people use their voice—the breathing and vocal muscles that produce sound,” Allison says. “Voice problems aren’t generally understood by the public at large, and when patients see what’s going on with theirs, it’s helpful.”
Treatment approaches vary by patient. Allison likens the personalized process to a popular Minnesota pastime.
“I explain it as a fishing expedition where we try a bunch of stuff and see what works,” Allison says. “We have a lot of tools in our toolbox, and I figure out what they need based on what I hear in their voice and what they’re telling me they’re feeling.”
The practice and dedication patients need to retrain themselves to use their voice can be daunting. It also makes successful treatment especially gratifying.
“The moment when a patient starts to hear their normal voice again, that’s one of my proudest moments,” says Allison. “The biggest joy here is in helping people. Being a witness to their struggles, as someone who listens and knows what they’re going through, and helping them get their voices back and not have the same type of problem again—that’s the most rewarding.”
How can you prevent losing your voice? Allison offers three tips.
“The biggest thing is paying attention to your voice,” says Allison. “When you notice that your voice is tired, give yourself the rest you need, instead of pushing through.”
“Also, stay hydrated and don’t clear your throat unless you really have to.”
Interested in learning more about working at Fairview Health Services? Search for open positions at www.fairview.org/careers.