Speech Aids

Working with Laryngectomies

The more speech-language pathologists know, the greater the outcomes for their patients

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As a speech-language pathologist, you may have learned early in your career about the different speech methods available after a total laryngectomy. You may have learned this while you were still in school, or while doing your CFY. Many SLPs learned on the job, and the first time they heard an electrolarynx was perhaps also the first time they met a laryngectomy.

The latter is common, and mostly due to the small population of SLPs working with laryngectomies day in and day out. Nevertheless, it is crucial for all SLPs to be informed about laryngectomies and the different topics that accompany this patient population. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the higher chance you will have to improve your patients' quality of life!

Knowing the Speech Options

Today, there are three common methods of communication for individuals who have undergone a total laryngectomy: tracheoesophageal speech, electrolarynx (artificial larynx) speech, and esophageal speech. It is important to understand the differences, benefits and drawbacks of each method. The following is a brief description of each method, but it is highly recommended to visit the links at the end of this article for more detailed information.

  • Tracheoesophageal Speech (TEP). This method of speech is obtained via a small fistula placed in the common wall between the trachea and esophagus, a prosthesis with a one-way valve is then placed into the fistula. To generate speech, the user occludes their stoma, forcing air through the prosthesis and out the esophagus to the oral cavity.
  • Electrolarynx Speech. This method of speech is obtained through the use of an external mechanical device, typically battery operated, which vibrates much like the vocal folds do during normal speech. This method is generally thought of as the quickest way to speak following surgery, given it has an available intraoral adapter which can be used while in an acute-care setting.
  • Esophageal Speech. This method of speech involves oscillation of the esophagus and is a skill that can be mastered with practice by some, but not all Laryngectomies. Originally, this was the primary method of speech until technological and medical advances made way for the electrolarynx and TEP speech.

Advancing Electrolarynx Technology

When people are asked about the sound of an electrolarynx, they typical respond with a robot-type voice mimicking what they have come to know as the artificial larynx. While that "robotic sound" may have been the only thing available for many years, the advances in technology have made one device stand out as the most natural sounding available today.

An electrolarynx from Griffin Laboratories is the only device on the market that allows users to have fluid intonation with a single press of a button. This unique intonation feature has been clinically proven to increase speech intelligibility over traditional monotone devices. When your patient is considering the many different electrolarynx devices on the market, it's important to provide as much education as possible so they can make an informed decision.

Unique Way to Learn

In 2009, Griffin Laboratories successfully introduced an educational outreach program called the Student Learning Program.

This program offers students the opportunity to get a "hands-on" education with the TruTone® Electrolarynx while they are still in school. This program is free to faculty members who incorporate laryngectomy education into their lectures.

Griffin Laboratories will loan you 20 units for up to 2 weeks and will provide shipping to and from your university. To participate, send an email to SLP@griffinlab.com.

With today's technology, there is a wealth of knowledge at our finger tips. In addition to online links, visit a local support group, a regional, state, or national laryngectomy conference and become involved in this wonderful community.

For more information, visit some popular laryngectomy online resources: Below are links to some of the more popular online resources.

The International Laryngectomy Association

Online support group and educational info

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

American Head and Neck Society

Griffin Laboratories, Electrolarnx Manufacturer

Eric Howell is sales and marketing manager at Griffin Laboratories, Temecula, CA. Log on to www.griffinlab.com for more information.

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