Do you know people who talk so much they become hoarse?
“Basically they have calluses on their vocal cords,” said Dr. Robert Meek, key developer of Anne Arundel Medical Center’s new Voice and Swallowing Center. Along with instructing loquacious people how to treat their vocal cords with more respect, the new Center provides coordinated care through a multidisciplinary approach to people who suffer from a variety of voice and swallowing disorders.
These include professionals who overuse their voices in their vocations (i.e., teachers, singers, salespeople), people who suffer from silent reflux, or are recovering from a stroke or trauma to the throat area.
Dr. Meek, Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist with Anne Arundel Ear, Nose and Throat, said the Center provides “one-stop shopping” for patients who are experiencing difficulty with swallowing or speaking.
“The swallowing and speaking mechanisms are very complex and closely related, making problems difficult to diagnose. Sometimes they can even overlap,” he said. Consolidating diagnostic procedures and treatment into one location that speech pathologists, ENTs, gastroenterologists and neurologists can use for testing is much more efficient and provides additional opportunity for specialists to consult.
The Center is located on the second floor of the Hospital Pavilion at Anne Arundel Medical Center and is coordinated by Heather Langford, MA, CCC-SLP, AAMC’s lead speech pathologist. She said that primary care physicians may refer patients for diagnostic testing with such symptoms as coughing and choking, heartburn, hoarseness, as well as patients recovering from strokes or ones who are trauma patients.
In addition to testing, the Center can provide education, offer lifestyle changes, psychological help and, where indicated, surgery and medication.
The diagnostic equipment in the Center can examine vocal cord function, check for acid reflux, evaluate swallowing as a patient is fed, as well as study the various stages of swallowing, check for poor swallowing sensation that can cause aspiration, and analyze sound for frequency, decibels and noise.