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Voice and Swallowing Therapies

Specialized voice and swallowing services

Whether your difficulty speaking or swallowing is related to a problem present at birth, an injury, or a new medical condition, you’ll find the care and support you need at the Ronny Schwartz Center for Voice, Swallowing and Motility Disorders.

Our certified therapists work closely with Scripps Health doctors who are at the top of their field in numerous medical and surgical specialties, including:

Our team can help you address any condition that has affected your ability to speak or swallow with services such as:

We also work closely with gastroenterologists to help diagnose motility disorders that can cause symptoms such as acid reflux, heartburn, and chronic cough.

Please note that you’ll need a referral from your doctor prior to receiving care at the Ronny Schwartz Center.

Voice and speaking disorders

Most of us rely on our voices to get through the day. But if you have trouble speaking — whether it’s a chronically hoarse voice, an abnormal pitch, or an inability to speak loudly — then you know that even subtle vocal changes can impact your quality of life, especially if those changes are accompanied by trouble swallowing or pain.

At the Ronny Schwartz Center for Voice, Swallowing and Motility disorders, our certified speech language therapists are trained to diagnose and treat vocal problems caused by a wide range of age- or health-related issues. These include:

  • Nodules, polyps or cysts that develop on the vocal cords, also known as phonotrauma
  • Aging vocal cords, sometimes referred to as vocal cord atrophy or presbylaryngis
  • Vocal cords that have been weakened by a neurological problem, such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Muscle tension dysphonia
  • Spasmodic dysphonia
  • Airway disorders such as laryngotracheal stenosis
  • Trauma to the vocal cords caused by thyroid surgery, cervical spine fusion surgery or treatment for laryngeal cancer
  • Strained vocal cords caused by chronic cough or long term acid reflux

Regardless of the underlying reason for your vocal changes, our therapists will help you overcome them through a plan that may include vocal exercises, physical exercises, behavioral changes and therapeutic techniques such as laryngeal massage. Your plan also may incorporate other therapies as needed, including swallowing or speech therapy.

Specialized voice therapy services

Some of our speech-language therapists have training in highly specialized voice therapy for distinct patient needs. For example, the Ronny Schwartz Center offers custom voice therapy for people who use their voices professionally, including singers, radio personalities and teachers.

We also offer a certified program for people with Parkinson’s Disease called Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (also known as LSVT LOUD), which has been proven to help people with Parkinson’s improve their voice quality, articulation and vocal intensity.

Swallowing disorders

One of our most critical bodily functions is swallowing, an act many of us take for granted as a “simple” automatic process that allows us to enjoy food and drink. However, any impairment in our mouth or throat that affects our ability to swallow can cause serious health problems, including dehydration, malnutrition and choking.

The Ronny Schwartz Center for Voice, Swallowing and Motility Disorders offers specialized care for infants, children and adults who have difficulty swallowing for any number of reasons, including:

  • Problems present at birth, such as cleft palates and a condition called “tongue-tie”
  • Neurological conditions including stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis and Bell’s palsy
  • Trauma to the head or neck, including traumatic brain injury
  • Head and neck cancers

No matter what the cause of your swallowing problems, our goal is to help you swallow safely and effectively. Our certified speech-language therapists will create a customized plan designed to help you strengthen and improve the coordination of your lips, tongue, and the complex muscles used to swallow.

Specialized swallowing therapy services

The Ronny Schwartz Center has a growing reputation for its work with patients who have head or neck cancer, which can affect your lips, tongue, throat, larynx (voice box), nasal cavities, sinus cavities, salivary glands or other structures. These types of cancer often cause significant pain and trouble swallowing.

Our therapists work closely with oncologists who specialize in treating head and neck cancers, as well as radiation oncologists and ENT surgeons, to provide swallowing or speech therapy for patients before, during and after their cancer treatment. We also lead an active support group for people who have been diagnosed with head or neck cancer.

Our program also offers feeding and lactation services for infants.

Infant feeding evaluations

The Ronny Schwartz Center for Voice, Swallowing and Motility Disorders offers expert care for infants who are having trouble feeding. While a new baby may simply be having trouble “latching on” to the breast, other babies might have a more serious medical problem that needs to be addressed.

Whether your newborn is not gaining adequate weight or you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding, our international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) can help. She is qualified to diagnose the myriad reasons you or your baby may be having trouble breastfeeding, including:

  • Inverted nipples
  • Latching difficulties
  • Structural abnormalities present at birth, such as cleft lip and palate
  • Infant swallowing disorders or other medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Problems with the baby’s tongue, such as tongue tie (also known as “tongue-tie”).
  • Low milk supply
  • Nipple vasospasm, also known as Raynaud’s of the nipple