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  Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Voice Lift

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Shouting support for Olympic speedskaters, singing along with the car radio, and lifting your voice in the local church's chorale are ways people express themselves vocally. However, lifting your voice can also mean something quite different.

In the past, doctors have mostly performed vocal cord surgery on people with vocal injuries but today, doctors are offering cosmetic surgery on vocal cords for people who want to sound as young as they look. It's probably the only area Joan Rivers hasn't yet lifted.

It would be nice to sound like Streisand but doctors won't guarantee that kind of colossal improvement. They can only make you sound the same as you did when you were younger.

For a mere $17,500 as the crow's feet fly, doctors will insert implants through an incision in the neck, or they might opt to inject fat or collagen to plump your cords up. In some cases, they'd find plenty of fat to the rear and if they used it, we could moon our friends just by opening our mouth.

"After resting for a couple of weeks, the patient can speak in a firmer tone," reports The London Times. It's fair to assume patients resting that long will be somehow prevented from seeing the doctor, facility, and anesthesiologist statements or they'd ruin the operation by howling in pain, not from the surgery, but from the bills.

Doctors inform that, as we age, our outer body begins to sag, and our vocal chords stiffen. We won't dignify the word "sag" with a comment as the very thought of "sag" is too depressing to contemplate. As to "stiffen," for those of us over 50, it's possible that the last stiff thing we'll see is a wind sock in a hurricane.

They say that heavy usage of the voice takes its toll over the years, so it's fair to assume women are more susceptible to this voice-aging thing than men, since we always seem to get the last word in, no matter what.

Sports fans probably deal with voice problems as well what with all that screaming at games, especially since it's still a legal emotional outlet. Screaming seems to be all that's left to us now that we're no longer permitted to punch out the lights of the referees.

Maybe the doctors are right if they suggest this type of surgery. Why pay a plastic surgeon a fortune to get a nose like Halle Berry's, lips like Angelina Jolie's, and have as much fat sucked off your hips as Anna Nicole, if father time assigns you a voice like Harvey Fierstein?

"You can guess a person's age by the sound of his voice," says New York M.D. David Marx. Johnny Cochran would've had a field day in court with that statement, for those who recall the O.J. Simpson trial prosecutor's gaffe over voice identification.

"Over time, air leaks through a gap in the vocal cords and what a voice lift does is narrow the gap," says Dr. Marx. Singing, smoking and just day-to-day speaking can make vocal cords less limber and speech less recognizable. So can a few stiff drinks.

To produce sound, the vocal cords must meet each other at a rate of between 120 and 220 times a minute, and that high level of usage takes its toll. Unlike skin, the surface of vocal cords doesn't sag as we age - it gets stiffer.

It appears that what we really yearn for are stiff bodies and sagging vocal cords, and the last thing we want is the reverse.

In discussing the voice lift, Dr Robert Thayer Sataloff, of the ear, nose and throat department of Philadelphia's Graduate Hospital, said, "If someone can take the tremor out of your voice, that would be of more value for you."

What's wrong with a little tremor, maybe not as pronounced as Katharine Hepburn's was, but you can tell a lot by a tremor. Emotion detection, for instance. If unemotional Scott Peterson could've managed a tremor for the jury, he might be free today. And what about pre-pubescent boys with a vocal squeak that alerts parents to impending manhood? Without that, we could still be babying our sons when they're 17.

On the other hand, the sound of age in our vocal cords will become unimportant, if we take the time to make the words we say uplifting.


Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"

ebruary 14, 2006 column
 
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