University Hospitals Ear, Nose & Throat Institute Celebrates World Voice Day

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Innovations in Ear, Nose & Throat | Summer 2022

This April, experts from University Hospitals Ear, Nose & Throat Institute and UH Seidman Cancer Center teamed up to give voice to patients living with laryngectomy. In recognition of World Voice Day, they hosted an interactive panel discussion that was virtually attended by an international audience of more than 200 people.

N. Scott Howard, MDN. Scott Howard, MD

University Hospitals patients Matt Selker and Edward Ellsworth shared their experiences with laryngectomy and relearning speech after receiving a tracheoesophageal puncture (TEP). “A prosthesis is placed between the trachea and esophagus. When air is pushed through an attached valve to produce vibrations, patients are able to form words,” says N. Scott Howard, MD, MBA, a head and neck surgeon and Director of the Voice, Airway and Swallowing Center at UH Cleveland Medical Center. “Both of these gentlemen have endured so much and are phenomenally gracious about sharing their journey.”

The webinar also featured Emmy-nominated and Peabody award-winning documentarian Bill Brummel, who lost his larynx in 2016 after radiation to cure tonsil cancer left irreparable scarring. His acclaimed film “Can You Hear My Voice?” tells the inspiring story of Shout at Cancer, a choir of voices overcoming cancer of the throat and neck.

Based in London, England, the choir is directed by Thomas Moors, MD, DOHNS, an emergency physician and former member of the Belgian Boys Choir. The performers incorporate breathing, singing and acting techniques into their rehabilitation, using alaryngeal voicing to create sound. In addition to live concerts, group members raise funds and awareness as they help survivors rebuild their lives with renewed hope.

“I was so inspired by Dr. Moors’ efforts to push the laryngectomy voice beyond what we have thought possible,” says Dr. Howard. “The Shout at Cancer performances are a testament to the power of the human spirit and are certainly emotionally moving.” Registered attendees heard from Dr. Moors and received tokens to view the film.

Launched in Brazil in 1999, World Voice Day events are held each April, uniting the global community around vocal health education and advocacy. The 2022 motto, “Lift Your Voice,” was proposed by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS).

“This year marks our fourth World Voice Day event here at University Hospitals. We chose to recognize an often-invisible population that has had to relearn how to speak after surgical removal of their larynx,” says Dr. Howard. “We saw an opportunity to celebrate individuals who have pushed through tremendous struggles and are doing enormously well.”

Serving as moderator, Dr. Howard was joined by fellow surgeons Theodoros Teknos, MD, President and Scientific Director for the UH Seidman Cancer Center and Deputy Director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Nicole Fowler, MD, FACS, Associate Program Director for Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Reconstruction at UH Cleveland Medical Center. UH speech-language pathologists Lex Rakowski, MA, CCC-SLP, and Tracey Newman, MA, CCC-SLP, also shared insight about the essential role voice plays in connecting individuals to their community and methods of vocalization after voice box removal.

View video of UH’s World Voice Day event here: https://youtu.be/-ek2HpGgXXw

“The majority of our laryngectomy patients receive a TEP, which provides a much more normalized vocal quality,” says Dr. Howard. “Speech pathology is critically important along the entire pathway as patients relearn communication and swallowing, and our speech-language therapists start working with these individuals even before their surgery.”

Dr. Howard and his team are committed to providing education about voice health and risk factors to the Northeast Ohio community and beyond. A previous webinar on persistent cough and mucus received a record number of registrations within the institute, and plans are under way for a dysphasia event this summer. “We want to engage with patients in fun and unique ways to ensure they receive the knowledge they need and push them a little further with their voice than they have gone in the past,” he says.

For more information, contact Dr. Howard at N.Scott.Howard@UHhospitals.org.

Contributing Expert: 
N. Scott Howard, MD, MBA
Director of the Voice, Airway and Swallowing Center 
University Hospitals Ear, Nose & Throat Institute
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center 
Assistant Professor
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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