Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Voice Fatigue - BBS Syndrome

I had been finding that some days by 11 am my voice was beginning to fatigue. If you rely on your voice as your livelihood as I do, this can be particularly troublesome.

I first noticed this issue about a year ago. What was going on? What the heck was causing this to occur? Was it something serious? Was it environmental?

My thoughts ran wild with everything from voice polyps; cancer, food and drink issues. I imagined everything and anything.

Scheduling voice over sessions was also challenging and at times an issue since my voice was at its best in the early morning hours EST. Clients on the “left coast” would often receive a request to record as early as possible. Fortunately, I’ve had such wonderfully flexible and understanding clientele.

A few weeks ago I began tests through the hospital to determine the cause of my voice fatigue.

Ever had a tiny scope with a camera stuck down your throat through your nose? Yikes! Actually, with a little Novocain I did not feel a thing. It was weird however. A TV monitor was mounted so the Doctor could view the results of the probing camera and as I could. I never thought I would be viewing my throat, and larynx.....now that's a very profound statement! In a strange way it was rather interesting.

The results were conclusive. I was diagnosed with Muscle Tension Dysphonia a voice fatigue disorder caused by muscle tension.

Listen Sweetheart....I'm in famous company as this is amazingly also called Bogart-Bacall Syndrome.

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall both suffered from a mild vocal disorder that has been named for them, Bogart-Bacall Syndrome. BBS is now the medical term for an ongoing hoarseness that often afflicts actors, singers or TV/radio voice workers who routinely speak in a very low pitch.

Bacall naturally had a high, nasal voice; she trained it to be lower to get her debut part in To Have and Have Not. You can view her singing through the link on the right.

Apparently, over the years I’ve been unconsciously “training” my Larynx muscles to find a non-normal flexed and tense position as I used my voice. When I relaxed (got a good night sleep) the muscles returned to normal. The tense flexed position would return to my voice as the day progressed.

Fortunately, this is a very common issue and thankfully one that can be remedied through therapy and rather quickly.

I am working with the “Voice & Swallowing Center” and receiving prescriptive vocal exercises. These include a series of “Hum” exercises I follow daily from a CD. The drill is to make the vocal muscle recall that “normal” zone all the time.

If you would like to view a variety of voice issues and symptoms including Muscle Tension Dysphonia check out The Voice and Swallowing Institute of The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at http://www.nyee.edu/cfv-larynx-disorders.html

Another important fact I discovered is how essential hydration is to sustain a healthy voice. A minimum of TWO QUARTS of water are recommended per day. So drink baby, drink.

Of course yelling and screaming is not a good thing at all.

I’ve taken to using a “rapid hand clap” (picture an prim and proper 18th century French Officer) when I cheer for my beloved Boston Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots or President Obama! I also now use simple hand gestures against those challenging the above mentioned.

Okay I look like a dork…but my voice is happy.

My hope is you find this information helpful. I know many of you reading this are professional actors and actresses, singers, teachers, politicians and other blabber mouths.

Inside Studio A………..I’m James Herron

Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.

1 comment:

VOICESDOTCOM said...

An absolutely wonderful article James!

Thank you for sharing. The Bogart-Bacall Syndrome is interesting to say the least and I am happy to hear that it is easily remedied.

Best wishes,

Stephanie