AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — One in 13 adults will experience a voice disorder, even finding themselves unable to perform activities that require vocal communication.
To help regional residents combat and prevent such problems, second-year graduate students in West Texas A&M University’s speech-language pathology program will host a vocal hygiene spa and prevention clinic from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 7 in Legacy Hall inside the Jack B. Kelley Student Center on WT’s Canyon campus.
The event is free and open to the public. Appointments are not necessary, and attendees will be screened on a first-come, first-served basis.
Studies since 2012 indicate that voice disorders were on the rise due to an increased use of telecommunications, from phone calls to video calls.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, our voices were often the primary tool we used to complete essential job functions, attend medical appointments and visit with loved ones via Zoom and FaceTime,” said Zeth Collom, WT instructor of communication disorders. “Today, most restrictions are lifted, but we are talking more than ever, be it face-to-face or through a screen. This increased voice use puts the general public at higher risk for a voice disorder.”
In a post-COVID world, the majority of professions require what some health experts refer to as “occupational voice use.” Additionally, research from speech, voice, and swallowing centers across the nation and the world suggest that prevention and training is key to avoid vocal injury.
Voice disorders often are characterized by hoarseness or the inability to perform functional activities that require vocal communication, said Collom, who also serves as director of clinical operations for the WT Speech and Hearing Clinic.
“Our graduate students are taught principles of voice assessment and care using various techniques via case-based and hands-on instruction,” said Collom, who also practices as a speech-language pathologist. “And in my own practice, I collaborate with ear-nose-throat physicians in the area and out of state for patients such as teachers in rural school districts, professional vocalists rehearsing for a show, or older members of a church choir who aren’t ready yet to stop singing.”
At this event, attendees will learn how to implement therapy strategies to prevent voice problems. Attendees will be screened for a voice disorder, learn basic vocal exercises and receive laryngeal massages under the supervision of Collom and other clinical instructors in speech-language pathology.
“We want to provide a service to our University and community that helps everyone be more aware of their vocal health. Students and professors must use their voices to be successful,” Collom said. “Plus, the more practice our graduate students have, the more competent and capable they will be in serving. It is also good practice to collect some data and determine any patterns of behavior, both academically and clinically, in the area.”
Collom said he also hopes that the event will raise awareness about the contemporary speech-language pathologist’s scope of practice.
“I have so many patients who comment about how they never knew speech therapists handled these issues,” Collom said.
For information, email Collom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Addressing regional challenges is a key component of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.
That plan is fueled by the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised more than $150 million.