Humans have so many unique characteristics, different systems of complex ability from dexterity to creativity of expression, the variety of culinary delights to eat and the marvel of the mechanics of language, it seems that each makes use of unique tools provided by the human body. We are a remarkable feat of engineering. “In form and moving how express and admirable…” was Shakespeare’s assessment through his character, Hamlet (Hamlet, II, ii). And yet, the last two examples, eating and speaking, somehow missed differentiation in the use of unique tools. We consume food and drink by way of the lips, teeth, tongue oral cavity and oesophagus, but speaking uses the identical tools down to the base of the oral cavity, where the separation of the oesophagus, for food deposit, and the larynx for breathing and speaking is accomplished only by the respective closure (adduction) or opening (abduction) of the vocal folds.
When breathing or speaking, the vocal folds remain abducted to allow passage of air to and from the lungs. When eating and swallowing, the adduction of vocal folds to divert food and drink to the oesophagus should be involuntary. It should be as automatic as breathing or keeping the heart beating. The folds should not have to be made to close by voluntary action. If the folds fail to adduct, the result is the painful reminder that food and drink do not belong in the bronchial tubes and the involuntary reaction of coughing should immediately occur.
However, the failure of adduction, called hypoadduction, allows aspiration of solid matter from the mouth into the larynx. As noted above, the distress this causes cannot be dismissed. Fortunately, there are behavioural remedies.
Typically, therapy involves exercises of the larynx by push, pull and lift of laryngeal muscles while applying pressure on the vocal folds by vocalization, called phonation. This exercise is performed while turning the head in line with the shoulders, which restricts and assists the vocal folds toward full adduction. Also, the coincident phonation is applied at a higher pitch than would be expressed in a normal voice. This action, as well, further adducts the vocal folds, making full adduction easier to accomplish against the air flow and pressure from the lungs.
Speech and language therapy can provide excellent results for people problems eating and drinking.
If you have questions about speech pathology contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist. We‘ll provide you with a straightforward, efficient and very effective treatment plan targeted to your concerns. Contact Us Today!