We rely on our voices to express our thoughts and feelings. A total laryngectomy means your larynx is removed – including your vocal cords. Right after a laryngectomy, the quickest way to communicate with family, friends and healthcare professionals will be through the use of writing and gestures. It may help to practice some simple gestures and ways of communicating together with friends and family prior to your surgery. There are also apps available for smartphones that can help translate text to speech.
A voice prosthesis is a small plastic device that has two ‘flanges’ on either side to keep it in place. Between the two flanges, there is a small tube that contains a one-way valve. This valve opens when you speak and closes when you eat or breathe.
Your Speech and Language Therapist will help you to train your new voice and will recommend exercises that will make your new speaking style as clear as possible.
After your surgery, all breathing takes place via the opening in your neck (also called a tracheostoma). When covering the stoma before exhalation, all the air from your lungs is directed from the windpipe, via the voice prosthesis, into the food pipe before reaching your mouth. When the exhaled air passes through the upper part of the esophagus, the surrounding tissue will start to vibrate. These vibrations create the sounds that end up as spoken words when shaped by the tongue and lips.
Is your voice prosthesis working as well as it should be? It can be helpful to learn some tips on recognizing when it’s time to change your voice prosthesis.
Watch the video that will give you an idea of what it sounds like when you speak with a voice prosthesis.