Let’s talk ENT’s, Vocal Therapists and Vocal dysfunction in EDS!
My story: Severe chord bowing, hypertension in interior and exterior muscles, dystonia complicating all of the above, TMJ, resulting dysphagia – swallowing issues.
Most EDSers develop at least one of these, if not a combination of at least 3. As many as 75% of EDS patients suffer from cervical dystonia, and ALL EDS/HSD patients live with the possibility of developing a variety of issues, from mild to severe. Some patients may only experience a little more vocal fatigue and irritation, but for anyone who uses their voice professionally, having a connective tissue disorder can be painful and devastating to a career. So let’s prevent that!
How do you find someone good to help?
Look for ENT’s that work with vocalists. The bio’s usually say online if they have an interest in singers and vocal performers. Sometimes front desks know. These ENT’s look for more nuanced details of vocal cord function AND usually know VERY good vocal therapists, which is the real goal. These men and women might not KNOW they’ve worked on EDS patients but have related experience like Parkinson’s patients and those with neurological conditions that impact soft tissue function.
Like working with a PT who works with dancers, a vocal therapist who works with performers has higher standards for what it means to be “functional”. And our bodies need those higher standards in order to reach everyone else’s normal baseline. A vocal therapist who works with performers and professional speakers, like teachers will use more of the following: Exercises broken down to more nuanced levels, more attention given to smaller details, and they tend to be more curious about EDS because they work with complex cases.
What can you do while you wait?
As a vocal performer, here’s a few top tips to keeping your voice healthy with connective tissue fragility! You even can start these activities with your children. Don’t go overboard, they don’t need this as much as you do. YET. Make it fun, Keep It Simple, prevent future issues early with lifestyle changes.
1. Spend at LEAST 20 minutes a day NOT talking. For severe discomfort, do this two or three times a day. I taught my kids about needing this and then set a timer. Took practice to learn to write me notes or wait for me to write my replies, but when mama is taking a vocal break – don’t expect verbal replies! Works 90% of the time.
2. STOP throat clearing and whispering. These both put ADDED strain on the vocal cords, not less. And they become so habitual that the irritation is nearly constant. Throat clearing smacks the cords together violently and increases dysphasia from resulting muscle tension, and whispering isn’t more gentle. It forces the larger neck muscles to engage and squeeze the throat tight to make the quieter sound.
3. Until you know how to yell safely, to project your voice with strength from the diaphragm, without straining the throat. STOP yelling. Again, hard with kids when you have to call them but there are answers for this too! I created fun, musical whistles for each person in the family. The higher pitch cuts across noisy playgrounds and with practice, the rule is you come when I whistle. Might seem odd but bells are also really helpful. I have some old bells from my great grandmother’s house that were always outside her door, and now outside mine. ta dah! Even small reductions in yelling can make a huge difference in your vocal strain.