Like Nora Ephron in her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, I too feel bad about my neck. But I feel just awful about my voice.
Approximately 75-90% of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) have speech and voice disorders at some time in the course of their disease. PD affects my voice and speech. At times my voice passes for normal, while other times my voice sounds raspy, hoarse, husky, soft, monotone, breathy and/or slurred. I sound like a chain smoker, although I’ve never smoked.
It recently became an issue when I tracked down some lost classmates for our 40th high school reunion. I’ve been able to locate several classmates on the Internet, but also I’ve contacted several people by phone. People have a difficult time understanding me and don’t recognize my voice on the phone. I’ve apologized for my gravelly voice and explained that I have PD.
I often feel as though I am shouting when others hear me as whispering. Often people with PD have difficulty monitoring how loud they are speaking. This is not the result of a change in hearing, but because of changes in the sensory system where the softer voice sounds louder to the speaker with PD than it does to the listener (with or without PD).
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for PD can also worsen one’s voice and speech. However, in my case, my PD voice sounds about the same as before DBS.
Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) is the most popular treatment for speech and voice problems of PD patients and focuses on increasing loudness. Although I’ve gone through this program in the past and found it helpful, like anything else, it requires ongoing practice. LSVT has created a DVD of homework exercises to accompany their program. I purchased a copy of the DVD today and once I’ve had a chance to practice with it, I’ll let you know its impact on my voice and speech.
In the meantime, I’m singing along with my Anne Murray CDs with her beautiful alto voice and dream of sounding like her someday.
So if you phone me and I don’t pick up, I’m probably having a bad PD voice day. But hang on long enough to listen to my greeting taped nine years ago during my early stages of PD. I miss that lovely voice of the past.