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Still up & down (mostly down). General observations

Posted by Rob H on March 26, 2012

This past weekend, my voice continued to stay in the same pattern I’ve seen over the last couple months. Namely, it’s been mostly bad with a few hints of “decent” voice – mostly in the mornings. The one thing that’s really becoming frustrating for me is the muscle tension – it’s causing me to have headaches (stress headaches). They’re not BAD headaches, just annoying ones. Easily taken care of with some Tylenol. But I’m sure you’ve had the nagging headache that won’t go away, that’s what I’m dealing with especially in the evenings. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst pain, these headaches are only about a 2 or 3. Like I said, annoying.

The other thing I noticed, is that I am still able to sing normally but my singing voice is not lasting as long. For example, yesterday at church, I was able to sing normally but felt fatigued very quickly – even before finishing the first song…my voice was working well but it was causing the muscle strain & corresponding headache I mentioned above.

I also noticed one other interesting thing – I am able to yell normally…and immediately after yelling, my “regular voice” comes back for a little bit. It lasts about a minute or two. Now when I say yell, I’m not talking about simply raising my voice – that’s still kinda spotty…but really belting out a loud yell. It’s like the yelling “loosens up” my muscle tension somehow. I’m not normally one to yell so I don’t have a lot of testing/data on this but it’s something I’m going to explore a little deeper. It’s obviously not practical to “practice” this during the day, I’ll need to save it for when I’m driving or home by myself. But I want to see if I can consistently get this to work, and maybe I can begin to retrain my muscles with this techinique.

A new direction…BOTOX

Posted by Rob H on March 20, 2012

Well, my latest appointment was this morning and I was told that I do, in fact, have spasmodic dysphonia. This was a bit disappointing, and a relief at the same time. It was disappointing because I was really hoping I had the muscle tension dysphonia (MTD) which is more of a treatable condition, through therapy. Spasmodic dysphonia is much more difficult to treat and there is no known “cure” – just treatments.

It was a relief because I had been frustrated over the past month with my voice, thinking my non-improvement was my own fault. I have given it the “college try” and kept practicing what I was told to practice, to no avail. I had one tantalizing glimpse of normality a month ago, when my normal voice returned for brief periods every day for a week straight. It was at this point that my doctor thought I might have muscle tension dysphonia – but the improvement was short-lived and I have not experienced any more of these “breakthroughs” for several weeks now.

What’s next?

So I was presented with 3 options:

  • Botox injections in my throat
  • Surgery
  • Do nothing, just learn to live with it

The third option is really not an option because I just can’t go on like this. The stats my doctor gave me about the other two options: The surgery is about 60% effective and in some cases, even after the voice is “fixed”, the voice problems return 2-3 years later. The Botox is 80-85% effective and is done as a quick, outpatient procedure. They numb my throat near the Adam’s apple with novocaine, then insert a small needle into my vocal folds – guided by a special machine to ensure the needle reaches the correct area.

Botox – my choice

I have reservations about taking Botox injections, namely the uncertainty of putting a known poison into my body. However, I’m in a situation where there are no “good” options unfortunately. The best thing would be for it to miraculously go away. Since that’s not happening, I will have to opt for my next best plan of action. And so I’ve chosen to have the Botox injection.

For me, getting this first Botox injection will tell me whether it’s something that’s going to help my condition…and if it DOESN’T work we’ll have to go back to the drawing board, so to speak. Also, it will buy me some time to consider all my options – including whether I want to continue with the Botox, or if I want to pursue additional voice therapy, or even if I want to explore the surgery option more. In the meantime, I’ll at least have a decent voice while I’m mulling it over.

I have just over a month to wait for the injection, the next possible date I can have it done is April 23. Until then, I’ll have to continue to “play” with my voice and see if I can make any more progress.

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