Esophageal Speech Blog

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Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:38 am

I had my first esophageal speech lesson today. I've been teaching myself, now, for about eight weeks. Of course, with self-teaching I've developed some bad habits.The worst bad habit that I need to break is pushing the sounds too hard. After talking, my throat hurt, just as it did when I had vocal cords and I shouted. Now, that I've learned to relax a little, talking no longer is painful.

I am at the point were short phrases can be understood in context. “Thank you” and “Pardon Me” are usually understood. Or maybe people just look up, smile and move away. Hard to tell. My wife can understand short phrases that are given in context. At the supermarket, I can point down an aisle and say “pickles”. The only other word I would say in that context is “mustard”. Since it is easy to distinguish between “pickles” and “mustard”, communication works.

I know I appear brain damaged. I point at the bread and say “bread”. In produce, I say “apples”. Of course my wife knows I mean, “Do we need any bread?” “Do the apples look good?” But my questions are reduced to a single word. And sometimes I need to repeat the word a couple of times.

So I've come a long way with a single lesson, but there are significant challenges ahead. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:09 pm

Well done Rick. A few words from a lesson is very good progress.

Steve :-)
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:05 am

I've been thinking about what words to say in an emergency. My new esophageal voice suffers under stress. In the USA, the emergency call is answered: "911, fire, police or medical". I can say fire. I can say police some of the time. But I can say cop all of the time. I have an easier time with first aid rather than medical. I think I can say cancer can't talk.

Some of the words that are easy: gunshot, car crash (accident is hard)
It is a very good mental exercise, like a crossword, to figure out what words to use in an emergency given my limited vocabulary. Of course in a year or so, it will be not needed. I will be able to say anything. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:45 pm

Hi Rick,

Very good point. I hadn't thought about those 'rule' base answering services.

A way around that 'medical' answer might be to add a 'T' in front of it so you say tmedical. The t should give you enough of a hard start to get the medical out. Of course you have to try and use the power of the t but don't stress it. Does that make sense? As time goes by you should aim to stop saying the t in front as you will want to talk as naturally as possible.

Steve :-)
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Sat May 05, 2012 8:50 pm

Steve: Very good suggestion. I find the "k" to be better for me than the "t". I can say "kolice" or "kedical". These should be understood, when "fire, police, or medical" are expected. I think I've said this before: my wife can understand me a lot of the time when there is a context. However, few words are understood when spoken out of context. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Sun May 06, 2012 8:31 am

Hi Rick

Over time you will be able to remove the 'k' cheat and get the word out normally.

Have you bought "Self Help for the Laryngectomee"?. It's by Edmund Lauder. It has plenty of tips/exercises on esophageal speech.

Steve :-)
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Blog: Recording Myself

Postby ToBeGolden » Sat May 12, 2012 8:02 pm

I recorded and listened to my own speech. What a shock! When I used esophageal speech, I thought I sounded pretty good. In fact, I wondered why everyone had so much understanding me. Then I recorded my E. Voice, and listened. I heard the problem(s).

At first, I used the recorder application/function on my "dumb" cell phone. It was good enough to get the eye opening experience, but not good enough to help me learn to speak better. By the time I pressed "stop", "options", "play last recorded", "back", too much time elapsed to be an effective teaching/learning device. I needed to be able to hear my E. Voice as soon as I spoke.

Luckily, I'm a retired software engineer. I found some Java code on the Net, which I could modify for my purposes. With the modified application, I can press the space bar and speak. When I press the space bar a second time I can hear my recorded E. Voice. It does not save the recording.

I've only had the application operational for a couple of days. So I've not had enough time to find out whether it will be as helpful as anticipated. After I clean the code up a little, I would be willing to share it. I'll let you know if hearing my E. Voice is helpful Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Fri May 18, 2012 12:55 pm

Hi Rick

If you can send me that java code I'd like to give it a try. I'm sure it could be very useful for me.

I remember when I first went back to work after the operation I bought a voice (sound) meter so I knew that I was voicing at my normal level. It worked well.

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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Sat May 19, 2012 8:42 pm

Well, my E Speech teacher was not at all impressed by my little computer E. Speech Aid. She glanced at it and essentially said "nice".

But the little program has really helped me develop my speech. Truly, without it I cannot hear my speech as others hear it. As I talk, my speech sounds better (by bone conduction) than it really is. Playing back recorded speech lets me hear as others hear me.

Of course, this can be done with an old-fashioned tape recorder. Or there is a recorder application on most phones. And there is a recorder included in the Windows Operating System The trouble with all these other solutions is that multiple buttons must be pressed/clicked to record and playback. My solution has a single key to record; a single key to playback.

My application is not really ready to share, unless you have considerable computer expertise. My eyesight is too poor, due to cataracts, to improve the application at the present time. I should have a good application by September, I hope. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Wed May 23, 2012 12:24 am

When I really have something to say, my esophageal speech fails me. I get over excited and think about the message more than the mechanics of talking. So the challenge remains. I need to practice, practice, practice. Will esophageal speech ever become as "natural" as vocal cord speech? Only Time will tell.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Fri May 25, 2012 7:39 pm

Hi Rick,

I've emailed you about skyping.

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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Sun May 27, 2012 9:05 pm

Steve:
I've seen your Skype request. I've tried to establish you as a Skype contact. My Skype name is Richw444. I normally do not have Skype up and running. So we would need to set a time to make contact. I'm in Seattle; what is our time difference?

About Esophageal Speech:
I've found that I need to add intensity to each syllable in esophageal speech. I feel that I must stress the second syllable more than the first and the third more than the second. This makes multi-syllabic words whose stress is on the first syllable a challenge.

However, take this hint with a grain of salt. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Tue May 29, 2012 8:32 pm

To continue with the topic of my last post: I find it difficult for esophageal speech those poly-syllabic words that have the stress on the first syllable. Words like: result, police, calling. To pronounce these words, I must remember not to stress the first syllable, so that there will be air to stress the second. The resulting "word" sounds strange to me as I produce it, but it sounds better on playback. In fact, when I don't outrageously stress the second syllable, that second syllable is often inaudible on audio playback.

Also choosing the "right" phrase adds to intelligibility. "Why did you call?" is easier to pronounce than "Why are you calling?" Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Tue Jun 05, 2012 3:59 am

Well, it has been a week since my last post. So, it's probably time for a status report. I am spending less time practicing with the speech recording program and more time just talking with my wife. I am at a point were I can get simple sentences and phrases across. Of course, I often must repeat certain words. And then there are times when my voice totally fails me. However, my voice is not good enough to carry on a discussion, or any complex communication. I could not explain how to drive to the hospital, or the local supermarket. Therefore, I can't participate in any real discussion. If I need to communicate in any length, I need to write or use the electro-larynx. Well, every week brings some improvement.

I do talk to a few neighbors when out. But I listen more than talk. I say "Day at a time." and such phrases. I can reherse what I say to neighbors and strangers. "Neck Cancer", "No Vocal Chord" and such. At least I can smile. More importantly, I have reasons to smile. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Sat Jun 09, 2012 4:24 pm

Hi Rick

I've been tied up with visitors from the States all week so haven't been able to get on line.

I do have you in my list of contacts in Skype. I'll email you so we can get chatting.

Steve :-)
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Sun Jul 01, 2012 5:08 am

I can't believe that it has been three weeks since I posted here. Moreover, I can't believe how little has changed. I can just copy my last post. So there has been little progress, but on the other hand, there has been little deterioration either. So I guess I can be a little proud of just holding my own.

I am heading for cataract surgery in about two weeks. I have 20/400 blindness. It will be great to be able to see once again. Everyone says cataract surgery is nothing compared to a laryngectomy. We'll see. That's a joke. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:11 am

My wife and I have different last names. She did not take my name when we were married. The curious thing is that with my limited esophageal speech, I can pronounce her name better than I can pronounce my own. Her name is full of T's and K's, while my name is full of W's and L's. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:38 pm

Hi Rick,

You must be getting read for the cataract operation. Let's hope is all goes well for you.

Steve :-)
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog Cataract

Postby ToBeGolden » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:51 pm

Yes I am one day post-op for the cataract surgery on the right eye. It was a huge success. I went from 20/400 to 20/30 in an hour. It felt like I had soap in my eye immediately, but even that cleared up in a couple of hours. Too bad they can't replace vocal cords like they can replace the lens in the eye.

Went back to the hospital today for a eye checkup. Everything is fine.
Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:57 pm

Excellent news Rick.

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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:12 am

Had a one-week post cataract surgery visit today. My vision is now 20/20, and everything looks fine. I have the surgery for my left eye scheduled for next month. (Forgive me, but I don't like to post exact dates I'll be at the hospital.)

I used esophageal speech to "read" the eye chart. The physician assistant was able to "hear" "E", "T", "C" etc. But of course, she knew what the correct response should be, and maybe any sound that was close fulfilled the trick. I did say "dot" once for a letter I could not make out, and she understood me.

I also asked a short question: Would possible future chemo affect the replacement lens?

My biggest difficulty occurs when I try to say something totally out of context. What do you want to watch (on TV)? is understood at home but not in the doctor's office.

Once again I say it's too bad that medicine has not advanced to a point where the voice box can replaced like the lens of the eye.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Fri Jul 20, 2012 5:55 pm

That's good news about the eyesight.

I have similar issues with talking esphegially. Sometimes I'm pretty good at it and other times I struggle to say a multi-syllable word.

I'm sure it will get better with time and of course practice.

Steve :-)
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Sat Jul 28, 2012 3:04 am

My life has been on a plateau for a month or so. Better than being on the skids. But it is time to put in some real concerted effort in an attempt to make some progress. On Esophageal Speech, of course. So I promise to practice for an hour each day. I will devise a more detailed plan as I go.

I've not seen my speech therapist for quite a while. But there is no reason to see her until I've mastered the tricks she has already laid out. After a couple of weeks, it will be time for another visit. Then she can point out all the bad habits I have picked up. Bad habits I will need to break. Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Sat Aug 04, 2012 7:23 am

After just 48 hours after promising to myself to practice an hour a day, I broke that promise. But after a couple of days of relapse, I did get on the practice wagon and did try to perfect esophageal speech for at least an hour each day. Unlike earlier, I divided my practice into ten-minute segments. I would practice esophageal speech for ten minutes and then do something on the computer for 30. Then practice again. It was a much better arrangement than trying to practice for a full hour in one sitting.

I did manage to go into a local supermarket by myself. And I ordered "a half pound of [French] fries" on my own. The important thing is that I said, "half pound of fries", and the clerk understood me. :D Of course she repeated my words for confirmation. I get very excited every time I can say a short phrase to a stranger and do not need to repeat myself. In this particular instance, I did not even have to practice the phrase before hand. I still cannot express a subtle opinion or carry on an extended conversation. Time will tell.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:46 am

Hi Rick,

You really are making good progress. Well done! Over time I'm sure you will major improvements.

Steve :-)
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Voice Recorder for Esophageal Speech

Postby ToBeGolden » Tue Aug 21, 2012 5:13 am

I've been busy the last week or so, getting the kinks out of an application I wrote. It is a voice recorder, that I use to practice esophageal speech. The advantage of my voice recorder is that a single click starts the recording, and a second click both stops the recording and plays it back. The recording is erased.

You can download the application, free of charge or obligation, from http://www.richardwalloch.com. You will find a link in the "Cancer Survivor" paragraphs.

The application comes with no warranties, whatsoever. The application is written in Java, which means you need the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on your computer. I offer the application because we laryngectomees need all the help we can get. Therefore, we need to help each other. Obviously, this application cannot take the place of a speech therapist. But it helps me hear what I sound like to others. Rick.
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Bus Ride

Postby ToBeGolden » Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:05 am

In the last week or so, I've take the (city) bus from my home to the medical center, an hour and half trip in each direction. Being a laryngectomee has turned out to be an advantage on the city buses. It seems no one wants to sit with me. So I get a seat to myself, even if the bus is quite full. This is useful since I must take 3 buses in thee different bus systems: Community Transit, Puget Sound Transit, and Metro Transit. And I don't even cough or remove the HME filter. So there is an up side for being a freak. (Only a freak to the common folk not to anyone who is important.) Rick.
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:50 pm

Hi Rick,

I've installed the voice recorder application and it works really well. Does it only work on Windows or can it work on Apple too?

Steve :-)
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby Steve » Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:05 pm

Hi Rick,

I've just looked at your website and I can see you have also done a Mac version. Well done.

Can someone who is a member of our website and is a Mac user please install it from the website and tell us how you got on. Also if you use Windows can you do the same.

This will be valuable feedback for our members.

Rick sent me a copy directly so I haven't actually checked that the download works although I can confirm that not only does the program work but it is also very simple to use.

Steve :-)
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Re: Esophageal Speech Blog

Postby ToBeGolden » Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:32 pm

I was at the supermarket, without my wife. At the checkout, the clerk asked "Paper or Plastic?" I said "plastic"; but my groceries were placed in a paper bag. The moral of the store is that my nifty voice recorder at http://www.richardwalloch.com does not yield perfect esophageal speech. I guess I do not need to warn laryngetomees that there is not magic bullet that will restore voice. But there are just a lot of little aids. Rick.
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