News Release

April 9, 2009

Contact: Maureen McGuire, 860-679-4523

Helping People Get Their Voice Back: UConn Health Center’s Voice and Speech Clinic

UConn Will Celebrate World Voice Day, April 16, with Educational Program, Live Choir Master Class

FARMINGTON, CONN. – To raise awareness about voice disorders, the American Academy of Otolaryngology has designated April 16 as World Voice Day. At the UConn Health Center, the day will be celebrated with an educational program for musicians, singers, students who are pursuing health careers such as speech pathology, and more.

The free program will run from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in Keller Auditorium, and will include educational presentations about the causes and treatments of voice disorders, signing and acting presentations, and a live choir master class. The program is being presented by the Health Center’s Voice and Speech Clinic.

“Part of our job is to raise awareness about voice disorders and let people know that help is available,” explains Denis Lafreniere, M.D., director of the Voice and Speech Clinic.

He notes that UConn offers comprehensive care to diagnose and treat voice disorders among musicians and performers, including professionals with the Hartford Stage Company, Connecticut Opera, and Hartt School of Music, as well as people from many other professions who rely on their voices.

“Teachers, broadcasters, sales representatives, ministers, lawyers, receptionists, parents – the list is lengthy,” says Dr. Lafreniere, who is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat expert) and a specialist in head and neck surgery.

Along with Dr. Lafreniere, patients are seen by one of three voice-trained speech pathologists: Starr Cookman, Patricia Doyle or Janet Rovalino. The speech pathologists analyze the functional realm of each patient’s voice and Dr. Lafreniere focuses on contributing medical factors. Diagnoses and treatment plans are made after patients are evaluated by speech analysis computer software and/or videostroboscopy. Treatment plans may consist of speech therapy, surgery, or a combination of these approaches.

“The results can be dramatic. We’ve videotaped patients before and after surgery or treatment, and the improvements are astonishing,” Dr. Lafreniere said. “Our goal is to get people back to what they were doing. Most of us take our voice for granted – until we lose it,” he added.

Experts with the Voice and Speech Clinic offer the following advice for preserving one’s voice:

Drink plenty of fluids: Vocal tissues are easily dehydrated. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Maintaining proper humidity in the home is also helpful.

Avoid airborne irritants: Smoke is irritating to the throat and vocal tissues. It can cause hoarseness and other changes in the quality of the voice and can lead to tissue changes, including cancerous growths on the vocal cords that require medical or surgical treatment.

Avoid vocal abuse and misuse: Yelling, screaming, speaking at too low a pitch, and speaking or singing too loudly or for too long can result in problems affecting the vocal cords.

Treat reflux: Esophageal reflux is the regurgitation of stomach juices into the esophagus and throat. Smoking, alcohol use and caffeine intake contribute to reflux. It irritates the larynx and can lead to coughing, burning, excess mucous, and throat clearing. Over time, it can cause ulcers on the vocal cords.

Take vocal naps: Rest your voice for 15-minute intervals several times during the day.

For more information about the Voice and Speech Clinic, call the Health Center at 800-535-6232.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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