Midwest Voice Conference : Current Methods in Singing Voice Rehabilitation

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Have you ever suffered a vocal injury?

For those of you who have you know the long road to vocal recovery that presents special challenges and demands.
Read some pearls of wisdom from Karen Wicklund, MD, as she shares some tips on how to help recover from a voice injury like surgery, nodules or a vocal hemorrhage and also how to take it easy while exercising your voice to return to full strength.


I am only sharing a few points from this lecture as Dr. Wicklund has a book about to go to press in September 2009, “Singing Voice Rehabilitation: A Guide for the Voice Teacher and SLP”, and the information she lectured on is part of that endeavor. This will be a short overview as it pertains to voice actors and performers of voice over.

The Role of the Voice Teacher in Voice Rehabilitation

When a voice teacher encounters a vocal injury in a singer, they are often the best people to help rehabilitate that person as they knew the voice pre-injury and already have an established relationship and history with the student.
Should a voice teacher not feel that they are qualified to treat the vocal injury, referrals to a professional who specializes in treating vocal injuries and disorders is a standard practice so that the student’s voice can be rehabilitated properly.

3 Kinds of Vocal Disorders

There are 3 types of voice disorders:

  1. Organic
  2. Neurogenic
  3. Functional, further divided into (a) hyperfunction, (b) hypofunction

What Should Be Considered When Evaluating the Injured Voice?

Dr. Wicklund refers to this as PIRDQ:

  • Pitch
  • Intensity
  • Resonance
  • Duration
  • Quality

Vocal Recovery Schedule

With some exceptions, therapy can begin almost immediately, however, teachers or therapists (also the person being treated) should be prepared to expect and accept a less-than-beautiful tone at first during early stages of treatment.

Therapeutic Exercises

The speaker or singer should keep exercises smooth and within a comfortable middle range, making incremental range increases by step rather than by leap.
For voice actors, this means that when you are recovering, fluctuate your voice with less range (keep in the mid range of your voice) and build upon your strengths little by little. In music, we refer to these small steps as semi-tones or whole tones.

When doing therapeutic exercises, you’ll need to keep your voice moving in a comfortable range (tessitura for singers). You don’t want to be leaping all around. The leaps Dr. Wicklund is referring to are pitches greater than a Perfect Fifth (P5), which for you, could mean the difference between how your voice changes or ascends when asking a question, emphasizing an exclamation point or noticeably jumping up or dropping down in pitch suddenly.

Good News

As voice actors and professional voice users, you are highly motivated to get your voice back to where you want it to be, thus being able to discipline yourself and not jeopardize your recovery by going to far or to fast. From what I’ve learned, should find yourself in a state of vocal injury, the best thing to do is to seek professional help from an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist). You may need a referral from your doctor to see an ENT to begin therapy for your vocal injury.

About Dr. Karen Wicklund, MD, MHS, CF-SLP

Associate Professor of Voice and Musical Theater Voice
Western Michigan University
Dr. Wicklund is the Director of the Chicago Center for Professional Voice, which provides a wellness site, http://www.singershealth.com, rehabilitation, and referrals for medical services for singers and other professional voice users. She is also Clinical Faculty Specialist at the Van Riper Clinic where she is a speech-language pathologist.

Have you Ever Had or Treated a Vocal Injury? Any Comments?

Best wishes,

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