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Speaking up for voice disorders

16 Apr 2019


The power of voice cannot be underestimated. We use it daily to connect, converse and communicate. Unlike vision and hearing, vocal communication rarely gets attention. That is of course, until you lose it.

In support of awareness for World Voice Day, celebrated globally on 16 April, we reached out to Louise Maher, our Senior Health Promotion Officer to find out more about her personal experience of voice loss.

Louise developed Spasmodic Dysphonia, a neurological voice disorder, 14 years ago. Despite all her years in the health system, she had never given much thought to voice disorders.

“I hadn’t realised the significant impact of ‘not being heard’. I soon found that it is isolating, frustrating and people perceive you differently when you can no longer speak with confidence and strength,” Louise said.

As the National Coordinator for World Voice Day Australia and Chairperson of the Australian Dysphonia Network, Louise has been able to merge her professional skills in health promotion, with her personal experience of life with a voice disorder.

World VoiceLouise Maher

Pictured: Louise Maher, Senior Health Promotion Officer and National Coordinator for World Voice Day.

“I am in a privileged position where I can help be the voice of so many people. I encourage those affected to seek early diagnosis, advocate for awareness, and support research into improved management of voice issues,” she said.

Louise wants us to ‘Love our Larynx’. She says voice loss is not a natural part of aging, and anyone who is experiencing voice changes that last for 4 weeks in the absence of a cold should see a specially trained voice health practitioner - Laryngologist or Speech Pathologist skilled in voice. Nepean Hospital has a Voice Clinic as part of the Speech Pathology Department.

If you come across someone whose voice sounds different, hard to hear or broken and choppy, being patient is key.

“Voicing takes a lot of effort when it is not working naturally, so pay attention and watch for facial cues while trying to understand,” says Louise.