Electrolarynx

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An electrolarynx, sometimes referred to as a "throat back", is a medical device about the size of a small electric razor used to produce clearer speech by those people who have lost their voicebox, usually due to cancer of the larynx. The most common device is a handheld, battery-operated device placed under the mandible which produces vibrations to allow speech.[1] Earlier non-electric devices were called mechanical larynxes. Along with developing esophageal voice, robotic voice or undergoing a surgical procedure, the electrolarynx serves as a mode of speech recovery for laryngectomy patients.

Overview[edit]

Initially, the pneumatic mechanical larynx was developed in the 1920s by Western Electric. It did not run on electricity, and was flawed in that it produced a weak voice. Electrolarynxes were introduced in the 1940s, at a time when esophageal voice was being promoted as the best course in speech recovery; however, since that technique is difficult to master, the electrolarynx became quite popular. Since then, many medical procedures, such as the tracheo-oesophageal puncture, were created to enable speech without continued dependence on a handheld device.

External media
Audio
Using A New Voice To Enjoy Life After Cancer (2:54), StoryCorps[2]
Video
Communication after laryngectomy (8:58), South East Coast Laryngectomy Support Groups (UK)[3]

The use of an electrolarynx can cause some social issues including difficulty ordering a drink in a noisy pub,[3] and, when answering a telephone, the caller responds "Is this a computer that I'm speaking to?"[2] One user states:

People are really very kind once they realize what the situation is. I may go into a restaurant once, and if I go back there a year later, and it's the same woman at the front desk, she'll say, 'Where have you been? We haven't seen you for a while.' So, I feel like a movie star...
I'm really very blessed in my life. I am happier now, without my voice, than I've ever been with my voice. It's a small price to pay for being alive and enjoying life. So I am very happy where I am now.[2]

Traditional electrolarynxes produce a monotone buzz that the user articulates into speech sounds, resulting in the characteristic "robotlike" voice quality. However, in the 1990s, research and commercial multi-tone devices began to be developed, including discrete-tone devices using multiple-position switches[4] or multiple buttons;[5][6] as well as variable-tone devices controlled by single pressure-sensitive buttons,[7] trackballs,[8] gyroscopes,[9] or even electrical detection of the movement of neck muscles.[10] In addition to allowing speakers of non-tonal languages such as English to have a more natural speaking voice,[4][5][7][10] some of these devices have allowed speakers of tonal languages such as Mandarin Chinese to speak more intelligibly.[8][9]

Fictional users[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Department of Otolaryngology. "Electrolaryngeal Speech". Eastern Virginia Medical School. Archived from the original on 24 August 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Forman, Rene; Reiman, Nadia; Esty-Kendall, Jud; radio station KCRW (2012). "Using A New Voice To Enjoy Life After Cancer". StoryCorps. National Public Radio. Retrieved February 13, 2012.  Also hear the audio at NPR
  3. ^ a b "Communication after laryngectomy". South East Coast Laryngectomy Support Groups (UK). March 9, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Whispers on the Web - December 2004". December 2004. Retrieved 2016-08-19. 
  5. ^ a b "Servox Digital Electro Larynx Speech Aid". 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-10. 
  6. ^ "Nu-Vois III Electro-Larynges". Retrieved 2016-08-19. 
  7. ^ a b "The TruTone™ Electrolarynx". 2008. Retrieved 2016-08-10. 
  8. ^ a b Wan, Congying; Wang, Erqiang; Wu, Liang; Wang, Supin (2012). "Design and evaluation of an electrolarynx with Mandarin tone-control function". Audio, Language and Image Processing (ICALIP), 2012 International Conference on. doi:10.1109/ICALIP.2012.6376692. 
  9. ^ a b Shakya, Bicky; Bharam, Vishal; Merchen, Alexander (2014). "Development of an Electrolarynx Capable of Supporting Tonal Distinctions in Mandarin" (PDF). Trinity College (Connecticut). Retrieved 2016-08-10. 
  10. ^ a b Kubert, Heather L.; Stepp, Cara E.; Zeitels, Steven M.; Gooey, John E.; Walsh, Michael J.; Prakash, S. R.; Hillman, Robert E.; Heaton, James T. (2009-01-19). "Electromyographic control of a hands-free electrolarynx using neck strap muscles". Journal of Communication Disorders. 42 (3): 211–225. PMC 3748802Freely accessible. PMID 19233382. doi:10.1016/j.jcomdis.2008.12.002.