Talk Medicine- Part One 

Joy Hollowell

We use it to express our thoughts and our emotions.Some of us even use it to earn a paycheck.We’re talking about our voice.The Voice and Swallowing Center in Belfast has only been around since 20-01.It’s located on the campus of Waldo County General Hospital.In part one of a special report, Joy Hollowell shows us what it’s all about.========”Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you.”This is the Happy Birthday song, from the view of the voice.”And that’s the airway, right there. That’s the trachea.” says Michael Towey, Executive Director of The Maine Voice and Swallowing Center in Belfast. It’s part of the speech pathology department at Waldo County General Hospital. Patients are usually referred here by an ear, nose, and throat specialist.(Michael Towey, Ex. Dir., Maine Voice and Swallowing Center)”We’re speech pathologists and voice specialists here. We’re not doctors, so we treat the underlying muscle problems with the voice. Most people think of voice problems and hoarseness as related to cancer. That’s the first fear that most people have. But there are many people that we’ve seen that have chronic, inefficient voice problems.”The center’s voice lab features a state of the art digital scope. It’s passed through a person’s nose and down into the throat, where a tiny camera monitors the actions of vocal cords, or folds. “When you speak, air comes between the vocal folds and they vibrate,” says Towey. “When we look at this particular case, you can see how tight it is, and so now what happens for those sounds waves to get out, they can’t get by this structure.”Towey says many don’t even realize they have voice problems.”They think it’s just normal to wake up in the mornings and have no voice or have to cough and chronically clear their throats,” says Towey, adding, “a voice that’s chronically hoarse for more than two or three weeks deserves medical attention.””I’m here because I lose my voice often.”Melissa Ingalls suffers from asthma.”After an attack, I would sometimes go two or three weeks without my normal voice,” says Ingalls.As a fourth grade teacher, that made things extremely difficult in the classroom.”My students have been wonderful…they would quiet down naturally so, because they could hear that it was difficult for me to speak,” says Ingalls.Ingalls assumed the laryngitis was related to her asthma…until she came here.”It’s been an amazing experience,” she says.Ingalls learned she has something called abnormal vocal fold movement, that can cause breathing problems. (Melissa Ingalls)”Ahhhh”Ingalls began working with a speech therapist at the Center, treatment that included breathing techniques. After just a few weeks, Ingalls says her voice is nearly back to normal.(Melissa Ingalls)”Ahhh”)”I would have never guessed this,” says Ingalls. “It felt so out of my control, and it was, and it’s nice to know how powerful the brain can be if you know how to use those skills.”==== The Belfast center also deals with swallowing disorders.For more information on the Voice and Swallowing Center of Maine, you can log onto or call 338-9349.