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

Mucosal chatter is an audible phenomenon of injured vocal cord vibration. It is commonly heard in the softly-sung upper voice of persons with nodules, polyps, etc.

Hoarseness or roughness are broad and nonspecific descriptors useful only for severe injuries. Small injuries that are nevertheless impairing the singing range may leave the speaking voice sounding normal. I suppose “hoarseness of singing range” could be used, but again, that would be an unsophisticated and basic description of vocal phenomenology. To hear more useful phenomena of injury, we elicit and thereby investigate the upper range of singing (even in nonsingers) because high, soft singing makes the phenomenology apparent.  This is why we have described “vocal cord swelling checks” and created a video to teach how to elicit them, and also how to evaluate and communicate the phenomenology that results. In particular, delays of phonatory onset (“onset delays”) above approximately C5 (523 Hz) may indicate mucosal injury even when speaking voice sounds normal. Also heard is air-wasting, where there is a “scratchiness” to the excess airflow. Segmental vibration is also a common audible phenomenon of a mucosal disorder can also be easily taught and recognized.

Vocal cord mucosal chatter adds an extremely rapid “shudder” on top of the pitch of the voice. I have used “chatter” rather than “shudder” because the latter suggests a lower frequency than the former. It could be called a very fine-grained diplophonia…but typical diplophonia, caused by independent vibrating segments, is a much grosser vocal phenomenon. While chatter is more subtle, once it is pointed out and taught briefly, most people can easily distinguish between onset delays, diplophonia, segmental vibration, the transient “squeaking” of a micro-segmental vibration,  the crackling sound of mucus dancing on the vocal cords, and “chatter.”  Those who master recognition of these phenomena can easily communicate them to colleagues. For our purposes, let me stress again that the above phenomena—and chatter in particular—do not happen in the normal larynx, where vocal cord margins match perfectly and the mucosa oscillates normally.  When heard—even in the person with a normal speaking voice—the examiner can strongly suspect a mucosal abnormality even before examining the vocal cords.  In fact, where these phenomena are heard and initial examination looks normal, it would be a good idea to “look harder.”

Patient examples:


Segmental vibration


False cord phonation

Making voice by vibrating the false vocal cords. This kind of phonation is unlike normal phonation or voice-making, which uses the true vocal cords.

False cord phonation produces a much deeper, rougher voice quality than normal phonation. It is purposefully used in certain kinds of vocal performance, such as Tibetan chant or heavy metal screaming. It can also occasionally serve as an alternate voice for a person whose true cords are unable to vibrate—due, for example, to their surgical removal or to scarring. It can also be produced concurrently with true cord phonation to produce a “Louis Armstrong” effect.



True cord phonation

False cord phonation

True and false cord phonation

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.


A synthetic material, polytetrafluoroethylene, most popularly associated with non-stick cooking pans. Until 25 or so years ago, it was common to treat paralyzed vocal cords by injecting a paste of Teflon particles deep within the cords. Teflon was an effective treatment for its time, but it occasionally caused granuloma formation and required late debulking.

Today, injected materials such as hyaluronic acid gel or hydroxyapatite particles suspended in hyaluronic acid are typically used instead for temporary or somewhat permanent rehabilitation. For permanent rehabilitation of permanent paralysis, surgically implanted silastic wedges are used most often, though other materials are also used optionally.


Audio with photos:


The patient describes original problem with Teflon granuloma/ overinjection, and the improvement after debulking Teflon.

Flaccidity of the Vocal Cords

Vocal cord flaccidity correlates to some degree with atrophy of the muscle comprising them. Bowing also accompanies flaccidity most of the time. It is possible to have bowed/slender vocal cords that are not particularly flaccid—they still vibrate with good firmness and resilience. Similarly, vocal cords that appear to have good bulk (and are not atrophied) can nevertheless have a flaccid vibratory pattern. Photos below show the visual findings of flaccidity as distinct from bowing and atrophy. Voice manifestations of flaccid vocal cords are similar to bowing in cases such as:

  • Loss of “edge”
  • Reduced ability to be heard in noisy places
  • Reduced vocal endurance (The voice becomes fuzzier or raspier and more air-wasting as the day progresses and the atrophied muscles tire).

Voice Building:

Voice Building (shorter version):

Bowing of the vocal cords

This is a descriptive term to specify that the vocal cords are not matching in a straight line, with only a thin dark line between them at the moment of pre-phonation. Instead, the cords become gently concave or bowed outwards. At the moment of pre-phonation, there is a wider, oval slit between the cords.

Bowing can be physiologic, asymptomatic, and a genetic “given.” In this physiologic type, the bowing will be subtle to mild and there will be good vibratory pattern. When moderate or severe, bowing may more likely be the result of aging, vocal disuse, Parkinson’s disease, or other conditions. Moderate and severe bowing correlate with a degree of vocal cord atrophy and the vibratory pattern can be more flaccid. The voice tends to have a soft-edged quality and to fade with use. Voice building is the primary treatment, but very occasionally severe bowing is treated with bilateral vocal cord implants.


Voice Building:

Voice Building (shorter version):

Voice building

Voice building is the process of adding strength to the voice by using a variety of tasks that tax its strength capabilities. The idea is that over time the larynx will rise to the challenge and adapt to increased demands, much as might happen to the arms as a result of a weight-lifting regimen. Sometimes the voice building regimen is very simple and “do-it-yourself”; other times it is more sophisticated and requires the assistance of a speech pathologist who is singing voice qualified.

Voice Building:

Voice Building (shorter version):