You may be wondering if you are able to speak after a laryngectomy. Our voice is one of the things that makes us unique since it is our way of communicating thoughts and feelings. A laryngectomy will change the way you speak and the sound of your voice, but there are some ways to gain back the power of speech.
Your voice is a big part of your identity – it’s how you express your thoughts, feelings and ideas. After surgery, whilst in hospital, the quickest way to communicate with family, friends and healthcare professionals is through the use of writing and gestures. It may help to practice some simple gestures and ways of communicating prior to your surgery with your family and friends. There are also apps available for smartphones that can help translate text to speech. Once you are home after surgery there is hope that you will quickly learn a new way to regain your voice.
Losing your natural voice can initially be quite upsetting, and have a large impact on your ability to communicate as well as your sense of identity. But the good news is that there are several ways to regain your voice and speak after a laryngectomy. In most cases you will have already been in contact with your Speech and Language Therapist prior to your surgery, they will help advise you of voicing methods that can be learned after surgery to develop your new voice.
Before a laryngectomy
Before a laryngectomy, your voice was produced by your vocal cords. The vocal cords are located in your larynx, also known as your voice box and are the source of the natural voice, during exhalation the air passes the vocal cords, which produces sound through a rhythmic opening and closing.
After a laryngectomy
Having a total laryngectomy removes your larynx and vocal cords, so the way you speak after a laryngectomy is going to change. Your voice will sound different than it did before because it is no longer coming from your vocal cords.
There are 3 different methods for voice rehabilitation following a laryngectomy:
- Speaking with a voice prosthesis
- Speaking with an electrolarynx
- Oesophageal and tracheoesophageal speech