For nearly half a year, Miri Eliahu could not speak; her voice became a squeak that frightened her grandchildren. Then she found her way to the Hadassah Medical Center’s Voice Clinic and within 81 minutes, her voice was back.
When this young grandmother’s cough and laryngitis didn’t seem to go away, she went to see her local physician. She also saw a local speech therapist for months, but nothing helped. Mrs. Eliahu went from being an outgoing and vivacious woman to a silent one.
“Mrs. Eliahu was suffering from aphonia,” explains Dr. Tali Landau Zemer, a Hadassah specialist in voice problems. “Aphonia can be a confusing and difficult disorder to diagnose for doctors who haven’t seen it and even more difficult for patients. Without your voice, you may feel helpless and even simple tasks like swallowing food may prove painfully inconvenient. Luckily, there are several treatment methods dependent on the severity of the case. Surgery is our last option.”
Mrs. Eliahu began treatment with Speech Therapist Sherry Lotem, who did voice therapy exercises with her. Dr. Landau Zemer explains why these exercises are so important:
“You know how people always tell you not to whisper when you are losing your voice? That’s not because it’s going to hurt your vocal cords. That’s because whispering can teach your brain to change the way you speak so that you don’t use your voice properly. There’s a change in the brain that needs to be overcome–and can be overcome with correct exercises. First you show that a person can make sound, as in a cough. Then you teach her how to speak again. In a short time, the vocal cords relapse to the correct way of working.”
Dr. Landau Zemer recalls that she once had a patient who moved to Israel from the United States. “He hadn’t spoken for a year and a half,” she said. “He came to Hadassah ten days into his Aliyah for help. He carried a pad everywhere and wrote what he had to say. But in an hour, we gave him back his voice.”
“I heard my voice and asked if that was really me,” relates Mrs. Eliahu. Her first phone call was to her husband. “Do you recognize this voice?” she asked him. “This is your wife, telling you that there has been a miracle–a Hadassah miracle.”