Why get scoped?

Why get scoped?


from Garcia, 1884

Back in the late 19th century, a voice teacher named Manuel Garcia developed a simple instrument to get a view of the vocal folds, using mirrors.  Today’s modern laryngoscope screening – or scope – consists of an examination in which a qualified otolaryngologist  (throat doctor) inserts a tiny video camera into your throat to film your vocal folds.  The doctor can then accurately diagnose any medical problems and prescribe treatment.

When should you get scoped? Since it’s a routine procedure, you shouldn’t hesitate to have one done to rule out complications if you are experiencing any vocal problems.  Such problems include:

  • Hoarseness that is recurrent or lasts for more than two weeks
  • Reduced range
  • Change in tone such as new breathiness or raspiness
  • Chronic soreness or tiredness
  • Lack of stamina
  • Feeling like you need to clear your throat constantly

If you are touring or doing a lot of performing, it might be wise to get a scope, even if you are feeling in good vocal health.  That way you have a baseline with which to compare future films in case you develop any symptoms down the road, particularly if you have to see a new Doctor.

Some of the medical problems that can be detected with a scope include: nodules (nodes) which are like blisters on the vocal folds; polyps; paresis (usually a partial paralysis in one area of the fold); and general irritation , due to overuse, allergies, or GERD (Gastro-esophageal reflux disease).  Treatment of these conditions can include vocal rest or speech therapy, while surgery is sometimes required, particularly for polyps.

In my studio practice, I sometimes run across students who exhibit the symptoms outlined above.  In those cases, I require a student to consult with an otolaryngologist before continuing our work together.    On one occasion, the examination confirmed there were nodes, and the student was prescribed vocal rest.  On at least two other occasions, the scope detected some irritation but we were able to turn it around by emphasizing vocal health, including instituting a good vocal training and practice regimen.

image waent.org

image waent.org


While good vocal health, including learning correct technique from a qualified teacher, can go a long way towards preventing voice problems, we are lucky to be living in an age when diagnosis and treatment is so much more advanced than in Garcia’s day.  Don’t hesitate to get scoped if you’re worried about your voice!

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