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"Sensory Tricks" can make spasmodic dysphonia symptoms go away? Or do they?

Why do symptoms of Spasmodic Dysphonia essentially disappear when doing certain tasks?

You may have heard of “sensory tricks” before or if you have SD, may have noticed that when you do certain things your symptoms seem to magically disappear. But what are they and what do you need to know about them? Sensory tricks are speech patterns that temporarily decrease or eliminate symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia. These include:

  • Speaking at a high pitch

  • Singing

  • Speaking in a whisper

  • Speaking loudly

  • Speaking in an accent or character voice

  • Emotional speech (i.e. when very excited or angry

  • Occasionally, putting your hand on your throat or on you jaw when speaking

So why do symptoms essentially “disappear” with some or all of these patterns of voicing?

It uses a different pathway of the brain or is a different sensory feedback than typical speech. Singing and emotional speech use a different part of the brain. Speaking in a whisper or speaking at a higher volume even, come with different sensory feedback than speaking in one’s normal voice. With SD, the typical speech pathway is disputed so these in a sense bypass this typical pathway.

So you may be thinking that if we just spoke in an accent or at a higher pitch all the time that we could eliminate SD? Of course, it’s not that simple.

The problems with trying to use sensory tricks all the time are that speaking in these manners are:

It's 1) unnatural to use these in real speech contexts and

2) not sustainable for a long period of time.


I love to capitalize on these sensory tricks. So how do we modify these to enhance speech?

We can:

* Use a more “sing-song” voice with more intonation

*Use a breathier voice to modulate volume in a healthy way

*Use exaggerated or crisp articulation to alter sensory input and perhaps shift the placement of voice production

Have you tried any versions of these "sensory tricks" with yourself or your patients?

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