Voice and Speech Clinic

UConn Health offers a comprehensive Voice and Speech Clinic to detect, diagnose and treat voice problems. Patients undergo a thorough screening then receive individualized treatment plans. It is the only clinic of its kind in Connecticut.

The Clinic offers care to musicians and performers, including professionals with the Hartford Stage Company, Connecticut Opera, and Hartt School of Music, as well as people from many other professions who rely on their voices.

About Voice Disorders

Voice disorders fall into three categories: neurologic, anatomic, and functional.

Neurologic disorders result from damage to the central or peripheral nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease or strokes.

Anatomic problems are caused by physical problems, such as allergies, polyps (small growths) on the larynx, or the reflux of gastric juices.

Functional disorders develop when people get into the habit of using the voice abnormally, for example, while suffering from a cold that causes laryngitis.

Diagnoses and treatment plans are made after patients are evaluated by speech analysis computer software and/or videostroboscopy. Treatment plans may consist of speech therapy, surgery, or a combination of these approaches.

Advice for Preserving One’s Voice

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Vocal tissues are easily dehydrated. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate tissues, so increase your water intake if you consume these substances. Maintaining proper humidity in the home is also helpful.
  • Avoid airborne irritants: Smoke is irritating to the throat and vocal tissues. It can cause hoarseness and other changes in the quality of the voice and can lead to tissue changes, including cancerous growths on the vocal cords, that require medical or surgical treatment.
  • Avoid vocal abuse and misuse: Yelling, screaming, speaking at too low a pitch, and speaking or singing too loudly or for too long can result in problems such as inflammation and swelling of the vocal cords.
  • Treat reflux: Heartburn, or esophageal reflux, is the regurgitation of stomach juices into the esophagus and throat. This irritates the larynx and can lead to coughing, burning, hoarseness, excess mucous, and throat clearing. Over time, it can cause ulcers on the vocal cords.
  • Take vocal naps: Rest your voice for 15-minute intervals several times during the day, particularly if you use your voice often.

Our Specialist

Denis Lafreniere, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist, started the Voice and Speech Clinic in 1992. He works closely with a team of speech pathologists, some of whom are also trained singers, including Starr Cookman, M.A., CCC-SLP, Patricia B. Doyle, M.A., CCC-SLP, and Janet Rovalino, M.A., CCC-SLP, who also offers sessions in Spanish.

Together, they assess each patient’s unique voice and speech problems, paying attention to medical factors as well as functional challenges.