Positive/ Negative practice

This behavioral treatment is prescribed primarily for patients with nonorganic voice disorders. A patient with a nonorganic voice disorder has been diagnosed with aberrant voice production due to the abnormal use of a normal mechanism, often due to stress or some sort of secondary gain. She or he may have been ‘stuck’ with the abnormal voice for months to years, or may lurch between normal and abnormal voice production on an apparently involuntary basis. To help patients first “find” their normal voices, the clinician guides the patient through a variety of vocal elicitations such as: a yell, glissando, siren, or vocal fry. All of this may be with or without clinician digital manipulation of the laryngeal framework. After preliminarily ‘settling in’ the patient’s reestablished normal voice, the clinician quickly asks the patient to alternate between the re-established normal voice and the old abnormal voice. First, the patient alternates upon clinician cue, again optionally with or without digital manipulation, and then the patient demonstrates the ability to switch between the two kinds of voice production at the sentence level, and then every few words, and then word-by-word. The positive and negative practice demonstrates mastery / control over the abnormal/ nonorganic voice production. If possible, this process should occur with patient, clinician, and family/ friends in attendance. Other doctors, speech pathologists, pulmonologists, and allergists who may have previously attempted to help the patient using medical rather than behavioral treatments should also be made aware of the nature of the patient’s diagnosis, the purely behavioral approach to it, and the idea that behavioral intervention to resolve this problem completely should not normally exceed three visits to a speech pathologist, to avoid his or her becoming a co-dependent or source of secondary gain.

Listen to a few demonstrations below:

Mucosal chatter

The term ‘vocal cord chatter’ describes the audible phenomenon one hears when the voice starts and stops in rapid alternation because the mucosa is at the edge of its ability to vibrate at a given pitch, loudness, and subglottal air pressure. So, it “catches” the airstream and vibrates for a fraction of a second, then stops, then restarts, then stops, etc. The best understanding is gained through audio and video examples.

Patient examples:

Segmental vibration


Phonatory gap

When the vocal cords fail to close during phonation. A phonatory gap may be seen in patients who have muscle tension dysphonia, vocal cord paresis or paralysis, loss of tissue, or vocal cord flaccidity.

In addition, however, a phonatory gap occasionally occurs in patients who have none of the above conditions. In this type of case, the patient will struggle with onset delays, but delays that “pop” followed by relatively clear voice rather than the scratchier or hoarser-sounding onset delays associated with vocal cord mucosal swelling. Also, if asked to perform our vocal cord swelling checks, such a patient will tend to struggle more with the “Happy birthday” task than the descending staccato task (the opposite is true for patients with mucosal swelling).


Torus mandibularis

A benign bony growth on the medial surface (tongue side) of the mandible or jaw bone. Also known as mandibular torus. Mandibular tori are usually seen on both the left and right sides (bilaterally). They often require no treatment unless they interfere with denture fitting.

In laryngology, mandibular tori come to attention because, when large, they can make it difficult or impossible for the clinician to gain a view of the vocal folds during microlaryngoscopy. That difficulty arises because during a microlaryngoscopy, the floor of the mouth is normally compressed by the laryngoscope to allow the scope to angle anteriorly at the viewing end, but mandibular tori, being composed of bone, do not compress.


Vocal instability

This characteristic might manifest most clearly during sustained phonation as a glitch, catch, wavering, tremor, in-and-out vocal fry, or other such finding. In each case, the patient would be unable, partially able, or only intermittently able to produce a steady and predictable voice.

Pharyngeal deviation

Pulling of the posterior pharyngeal wall to one side, as sometimes seen when a patient performs the “pharyngeal squeeze.” This finding accompanies paresis or paralysis of the constrictor muscles of one side of the pharynx. In these cases, elicitation of the pharyngeal squeeze will reveal that the pharyngeal wall pulls to the normal (non-paralyzed) side. On the normal side, one will typically see bulging of normally functioning muscle to fill one pyriform sinus; meanwhile, the other pyriform sinus will appear capacious and almost dilated. The midline pharyngeal raphe, which joins the pharyngeal constrictor muscles, moves far to the normal side. A person with these findings normally experiences considerable swallowing difficulty, with pooling of saliva or ingested materials, particularly in the pyriform sinus on the paretic or paralyzed side.


Palate deviation

A phenomenon in which, when the palate is lifted, the midline deviates to the normal side and the weak side droops. Palate deviation is seen in individuals who have paresis or paralysis of a hemi-palate due to Vagus nerve injury or dysfunction. It can be observed from either the oral cavity or nasopharynx view; subtle cases sometimes seem easier to see from the nasopharynx view.

Photos of palate deviation: