July 2014 update (with audio)

Posted by Rob H on July 11, 2014

Hello! It’s been awhile since I’ve done an update but yes, I’m still kicking!

I’ve been very busy with work and with a side business I’m working on, so there hasn’t been much free time. My regular job is going well, although I still worry about the long-term viability as it’s still considered a “contract” or “temporary” position. I know the company likes me, in fact out of 8 contractor employees hired I am the last one standing. The real question is whether I can stick around long enough to be able to apply for a position once one opens up so it’s a waiting game.

I like the job because it doesn’t involve a lot of talking, mostly desk work on a computer and it’s perfect for me. It’s low stress, which is another big plus as those of you with SD know. So needless to say, I’m hoping I can stick it out as long as possible.

That said, on the side I have been working on some things to make some income with my own home-based business and bring in income that way. I’m taking a methodical approach, trying to build it up gradually so that hopefully I will be able to replace my regular job’s income. I’m not going to go into details yet because it’s not far enough off the ground to know whether it will be successful or not but I’m very optimistic so far.

As far as my actual voice, I have been in a “fading” pattern for several months. As I type this, I would estimate my voice is under 50%, maybe 40% or even 35% of my normal good voice. I did take a voice sample about a month ago, included below. My voice was probably between 50-60% at that time, and has gone down even more since then.

The headaches which invariably come with the neck strain have returned off & on as well. It’s not always there, but when it comes it usually sticks around for a day or two, then goes away for a few days, then comes back, so it comes & goes.

Audio MP3

(in case that doesn’t work, here’s a link that should open in a new window)

You can hear some of the weakening in my voice but in general it’s still very usable.

The next Botox appointment I made is for July 21. I was really trying to stretch this out farther than last time. In fact, my goal is to get longer & longer out of each Botox. The last injection I had was in December so it took 7 months, just like the one before that. However, it was the lowest dosage yet and these last 2 months, my voice has been below average (but useful still). So this is about as far I can stretch it this time.

I’m pretty sure the injection 2 times ago, I could’ve gotten 8 or maybe 9 months out of that so that will be my goal next time. I am holding this false hope that maybe if I keep stretching it, my voice problems will eventually go away as my voice re-trains itself to be good. Sounds crazy but you never know.

Until next time, I’ll have more updates then.

Still uncertain – nearly 3 weeks post-Botox (with audio)

Posted by Rob H on June 10, 2013

On my last post, I mentioned that I had a nasty cold that was somewhat concealing my true voice…normally when I have a cold, my voice is much lower and this was a really bad cold…my voice was in a lower range for a good 5 or 6 days. Just yesterday and today, I finally started noticing my lower voice going away as my cold finally began to subside.

As the lower voice went away, however, I started to get more of the Botox-sounding voice back. So apparently, the post-Botox side effects of a weaker voice is still hanging around. Tomorrow will mark the 3-week mark since the injection and I was really expecting my voice to be normal by now. Especially considering the fact that I had a lower dosage this time, I thought it would mean my “regular” voice should come back sooner. Not so, I guess.

Below is a voice sample from a few days ago, Wed June 4…I still had my cold during this recording, so my voice is working pretty well and you can hear me speculate whether it’s the Botox or the cold that is causing the good voice.

Audio MP3
.
**Edit: If the audio isn’t loading properly, click on the link here to hear the recording.
…and below is another voice sample from yesterday, June 8. My cold on this day was going away at this point and you can hear my voice is in & out quite a bit.

Audio MP3

**Edit: If the audio isn’t loading properly, click on the link here to hear the recording.

I don’t have a recording for today, but it’s similar to yesterday’s recording. In & out quite a bit, no consistency in my voice.

I have heard from others who have taken Botox shots for SD, that the doctors don’t like to give Botox shots while you’re under the influence of a cold or flu. The reasoning I have heard is that the Botox MAY not be as effective. I don’t know why, but I have heard this more than once. So I don’t know if my cold has short-circuited my latest Botox shot but only time will tell.

I’ll have more updates soon, hopefully I’ll be able to post an update that my voice is back to normal very soon!

Frustrating Day

Posted by Rob H on April 16, 2012

Today started out promising, where I was able to make a few phone calls this morning and get some busy-work done over the phone. However, things deteriorated quickly for me. I experienced a sudden, drastic drop in voice quality around noon today and it hasn’t gotten any better.

To make matters worse, I had to take several important phone calls today at work. Up until now, I have been getting by with only needing to handle 1 or 2 phone calls per day. The rest, I’ve been relying on email (and occasionally, other co-workers). However today, I was forced to make and/or take about 10 calls and my voice was bad from call 1 to call 10.

On the last few calls, my voice was so bad I could tell the caller on the other end of the line could barely understand me. I got some “awkward silence” on the other end of the line on call #9. For my last call of the day, #10, I just told the person up front that I was having trouble with my voice and she thought I had a cold. But it was much worse than how I used to sound with a cold, this sounded like I had a very bad case of laryngitis. The person on the other end of the call understood me – barely – but I had to speak in much shorter bursts than I normally would, or I literally would have had no voice. She seemed to sense that I was struggling to talk and (mercifully) ended the call without going into any further detail. She got what she needed so that’s the positive. The negatives were, of course, my voice quality and also the knowledge that if she had asked for clarification on another issue/matter, I doubt I would have been able to get through it.

Thinking back on what may have triggered this sudden loss of voice quality, I cannot pinpoint anything different that I did this morning as compared to my normal routine. I ate the same things for breakfast as I usually have, I had a cup of tea which is normal, I had plenty of water. I had a rather average weekend, nothing abnormal to report…and started off my morning today with my typical “ok” voice that’s usable on the phone. Then, suddenly, and more swiftly than I’ve ever experienced, my voice was gone and I couldn’t get it back.

So…..we’ll see if there’s anything to this…maybe it’s just a Monday thing. I’ll try to keep track if possible but it’s been a frustrating day.

One other thing I noticed today is that my neck muscles are way more tight than usual. I can physically feel it. Normally, I can lightly move my larynx around, and my doctor even encouraged me to do this sometimes to try to loosen up my neck muscles. This is sort of like giving myself the laryngeal massage that some of the doctors perform at the Cleveland Clinic. But it’s not the same of course…since I’m not a trained professional and they do a much more in-depth massage.

When I tried it today, I could barely “find” or “grip’ my own larynx because the muscles around it were so tight. I’ve never experienced that before either. So today is a bit of a departure from the norm for me.

2nd straight bad day :( — Progress Report (with audio)

Posted by Rob H on March 3, 2012

Well, yesterday I had my 2nd straight bad day, I just could not get my voice to come out of the “bad” range. I tried all day, and although I could get it to work normally for a word or two, I could not get full sentences out. For about 7 straight days, I had mini-breakthroughs where I could talk in a normal or near-normal voice for several minutes. I was having normal conversations (though brief). Now, the last two days, I’ve had none of that.

I continue to hope that this is only a minor setback in my overall recovery. I will admit that it’s frustrating to have this happen after a full week of building hope. But I’m certainly not giving up, especially since I KNOW my real voice is in there – I just have to bring it out.

Below is a voice sample from yesterday, you can see that my voice has definitely regressed.

Audio MP3

Transcript of audio:

Today is Friday, March the 2nd, 2012 and this is a voice sample. My voice has been pretty bad again today, and I wanted to record it. My voice has been mostly down, I haven’t really had any good breaks in my voice for the last few days. I’m just going to keep talking and hopefully it does come back and I’m hoping that this is just a temporary setback. For now, I’m going to sign off – this is Rob.

Progress Report – March 1, 2012 (with audio)

Posted by Rob H on March 1, 2012

Today I had a bit of a regression, I felt…as I type out this post, it’s late evening and my voice was not good at any time today. This is the first time I’ve had that happen since my appointment last Tuesday 2/21/12 at the Cleveland Clinic. Typically, my voice is bad most of the day but I have a ray of hope for about 2-4 minutes where my throat muscles loosen up, and my voice comes out normal. Today, there was none of that. My voice started off bad right from the morning and stayed that way all day.

I tried several times to “pull myself out” of my bad voice with relaxation techniques, throat massages, humming (hmmmmmmmmm), all the techniques I have learned but they were not helpful.

I am hoping this is just one of those “2 steps forward, 1 step back” type of things, and overall I keep improving. We will see, and of course I will keep this blog updated with my progress.

Here is my voice sample from this morning:

Audio MP3

Transcript of audio:

Today is Thursday, March 1st, 2012 and this is a voice sample. As you can hear, my voice is kinda bad again this morning. It’s pretty stark contrast to what it was the last time I took a recording, where my voice was very clear and I was able to speak normally. This morning it’s not starting off that way, and this is again pretty typical of what I’ve been experiencing (highs and lows) – I would say it’s been mostly it’s lows but again I’ve had some breaks where my voice has been normal so that’s good. I’m going to keep practicing, keep talking to the voice recorder and tracking my progress. This is Rob, I will talk to you later.

Progress Report – February 20 (with Audio)

Posted by Rob H on February 20, 2012

I have included here 2 samples of my voice: the first one is from Saturday morning, February 18, 2012 and this is the first recording I have made in the morning. I generally have a better voice in the morning so I was hoping to get a “good” sample but this particular day it didn’t work so well. The second sample is from today, Monday, February 20, 2012 and it marks probably my worst voice sample yet. Take a listen to both below.

Here’s my voice sample from Saturday morning, February 18, 2012.

Audio MP3

Transcript of audio:
Today is Saturday February 19th, 2012 (actually it was the 18th)…and I am driving to work it’s the morning. It’s about 7:30 in the morning and I wanted to have a voice sample from the morning. So far, every one of my voice samples have been in the evening after work so I wanted to make sure I did a morning sample. This is basically worse…my voice is worse in the morning right now than it usually is. Usually it starts off better than this so I was hoping to get a good sample but my voice is not cooperating.

Here’s my voice sample from today, Monday, February 20, 2012 (very poor voice quality today):

Audio MP3

Transcript of audio:

Today is Monday, February 20th, 2012 and this is a voice recording. Tomorrow morning–actually not tomorrow morning, but tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to the Cleveland Clinic. Hopefully they can help me with my voice. Because as you can see, it’s really getting worse, cutting out on me, and sometimes it’s just totally not there at all so this (is) has been happening more recently (in the last couple days) so it’s gotten worse. Fortunately, it’s not to the point where it’s affected my job yet, but it’s definitely affected my ability to communicate with people. I’ve just got more creative at work, using email more, but my voice does get better when I REALLY REALLY need it at work. So that’s good…but if it acts like this at work, I’d probably have to go on some kind of a leave of absence because it’s just not functional. So I’ll have another update tomorrow after my appointment, and this is Rob, I will talk to you soon.

Bad day yesterday – and voice therapy update

Posted by Rob H on February 8, 2012

Yesterday was a particularly bad day, I was floating along with a bunch of “so-so” days for the last week or so, then suddenly I got hit with a bad one. Over & over, my voice failed and even worse, I had to talk A LOT yesterday.

At work, I received multiple phone calls, from appraisers who needed further clarification, and it was hard for me to explain things to them properly. I do well with short bursts of conversation, I can generally “fake it” for a bit – but when I get involved in a complicated conversation, with multiple back & forth interactions and a high word count, my voice fails miserably.

That was the situation yesterday, and with each phone call I could tell my anxiety level went up as I grew more & more frustrated. I am sure that my anxiety/frustration contributed to my bad day. On my “good days”, I am more relaxed and not under any pressure to produce a strong voice for extended periods of time.

I’ve been working with my voice therapist on getting my muscle tension relaxed. I will continue to practice these techniques and can see that this will be helpful as I continue to practice. This morning, I had an appointment with her and she suggested I write down the different times/places where my voice seems to be particularly bad or good. So here goes:

Consistently bad times:

  • Long conversations, my voice seems to “wear out” as the conversation goes on.
  • Talking one-on-one with people, at first my voice is ok but it quickly deteriorates.
  • Talking to someone in the car – whether it’s one-on-one or any other situation.
  • High stress situations (like the ones described above – mostly at work).

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    Consistently good times:

    • When I’m speaking in different pitches (other than my normal speaking voice) – for instance, when I’m imitating somebody in a sing-song voice, or when I’m singing at church, or when I’m whispering.
    • While yawning
    • Immediately after yawning or blowing “raspberries”
    • In short bursts, when I really concentrate. But it goes away if the conversation lasts awhile.
    • After a long silence – like in the mornings, when I first wake up, my first few sentences are usually decent. Or throughout the day at work, if I haven’t spoken in awhile, it’s usually better for the first few sentences.

    Using these guidelines, I can see that I need to try to concentrate more on relaxation techniques, and keep practicing my breathing and voice exercises. It’s hard to breathe from my diaphram, as the therapist suggests, because I have always breathed from my chest so it’s hard to change an automatic function like this.

    One thing I do know, is this spasmodic dysphonia thing is mysterious.

Up and Down Day (with Audio)

Posted by Rob H on January 18, 2012

Today was a rather interesting day.  My voice had some highs and lows all in one day.

At work today, my voice was close to normal for a large part of the morning and early afternoon.  I even took a phone call from a client and my voice was “nearly normal” for the entire 3-4 minute call.  That was very exciting and encouraging to me.  I know my voice cracked a time or two during the call, but overall the person on the other end of the line didn’t notice, I’m sure of it.

That was the “up” part of my day, and it’s funny how memorable that one phone call was to me.  Little things like that are more important to me than they were before my voice started going bad.

The “down” part of my day happened later in the evening.  My wife and I went bowling and by that time of day, it was as if my voice was tired out and I couldn’t speak very well.  In fact, it got so bad that my wife just told me not to talk since she could tell I was struggling.

I took a quick recording of my voice just after I returned from bowling and you can click on the “Play” button below to hear the recording:

Audio MP3

 

Transcript of audio:

This is Rob Henry, I’m recording this on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.  Tomorrow morning, I’m going in for a doctor’s appointment:  my first evaluation with a voice specialist (voice therapy).  It’s about 10:00 at night, I just wanted to record my voice for the records.

Rough day today

Posted by Rob H on January 11, 2012

Today was an especially rough day at work.  My voice was the worst it’s been since this whole saga began.  I had to use my voice a lot today, as my staff needed me for some judgment calls.  This meant that I couldn’t get away with simple one-word answers, or short replies.  I had to dive into details on how to accomplish the task multiple times.

My voice during the day time is generally better than in the evening.  It’s as if my voice “wears out” throughout the day.  But today, my voice was as bad as it sounds on my last audio recording (see this post).

Several times, I had to repeat a word that didn’t make it out of my mouth the first time.  I had a scheduled meeting with my staff, which I cancelled today.  I am the leader of the meeting so it’s ok if I cancel the meeting, but part of me wanted to cancel due to my voice.  The fact that I didn’t really have anything new to discuss, helped make the decision for me to cancel the meeting.  But my voice definitely was a factor in the decision.

Now, I am going to rest and see how it sounds tomorrow.  I am still awaiting word from my ENT doctor about getting an appointment to see a voice therapist.  It seems as if it can’t come soon enough so I’ll follow up with a phone call tomorrow to see if I can speed up the process a bit.