Doctors, Speech Language Pathologists and US

Those of us who have taken the time and spent the money to learn about working with injured voices by re-training them after illness, injury or surgery appreciate the MDs who trust us and refer people to us and Speech Language Pathologists who understand how to work as partners alongside us when working with vocalists.

There are not too many MDs who bother to find out how singing and singers function and who understand the need for re-training to avoid re-injury, but there are a few who have also sought out such knowledge, and are leading their profession towards greater interaction. Speech Language Pathology is important, too, but, again not all SLPs realize that treating the speaking voice is only part of what needs to happen if the person had problems singing that were caused by vocal production. Some SLPs have singing experience and are working to bridge the two professions – speech and song — with their expertise.

It is very possible to have normal vocal folds and dysfunctional vocal behavior. Medicine isn’t going to help such a situation, and if the singer loses the top of his or her range, or has trouble matching pitch, or has less stamina, surgery isn’t the answer and sometimes speech work isn’t enough. The only real answer here is a team approach…..medical doctor first, followed by qualified speech pathologist with expertise in voice issues (that’s a speciality), and then work with a singing teacher who is trained to help someone recover from vocal function issues.

The conference “Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation of the Performance Voice” (, in October in Michigan at the University of Michigan Medical School is just such a conference. It brings together medical doctors, speech language pathologists, singing teachers and researchers as well as performers, to help them learn from each other how they work and why. It is important that we continue to work with each other so there is greater trust and understanding as patients can only benefit from having guides who have correct information, correctly applied.

Singing teachers who have expertise in re-training injured voices need to press MDs to learn more about what they have to offer. Singing teachers need to find speech language pathologists who will also work with them to be sure that a singer not only has healthy speech but professional level singing as well.

If you are a singing teacher, you might sign up for The New York Singing Teachers’ Association Professional Development Program ( and learn what you need to know. If you are a SLP, you might try taking singing lessons, and if you are a doctor, you might also learn to sing. Cross training is the best way to know what’s expected in each area.

The 21st Century is going to demand that all of us understand a lot more about each discipline. Please reach out and interact with your sister professions.

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