The past twenty years have seen significant changes in the methods of speech available to laryngectomees. Esophageal speech is disappearing as there are very few left who can train a patient in this method of speech. Fewer SLTs are providing an electrolarynx, if only as a secondary speech alternative. Undoubtedly the quality of speech for those using a prosthesis has improved making this the gold standard in treatment.
Using a speech valve does have some downsides however. It makes demands on the patient in keeping the valve functional with frequent cleaning and regular replacement. The TEP allows for aspiration, even with a valve in situ. The older the patient the more serious these limitations may be.
NALC and HNChelp’s members are contributing to the development of different approaches by researchers and engineers seeking to use new technology. One approach is to try to develop an artificial larynx which retains swallowing and speech functions. Another is to try to use the ability to “mouth” words and electronically translate this into sound. Projects like these need the input of patients’ experiences and opinions and we are delighted to have the chance to be involved.