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Electrolarynx – A Boon for the Larynx-less

Updated on October 28, 2014
Electrolarynx
Electrolarynx

A major difference between man and other animals is man’s ability to talk. Though other animals talk, they don’t have a very well-structured language like humans have. Neither do they have enough words to express all their emotions, by talking. And so, humans feel shortened if they cannot talk! Especially if a person loses his or her ability to talk, after some time in life, he or she feels suffocated, irritated and depressed. People who lose their voice-box (larynx), often due to laryngeal cancer and sometimes also due to some other conditions, have to face this. For these people, an electrolarynx is like a boon!

 Laryngeal examination
Laryngeal examination

What Is Electrolarynx?

An electrolarynx is a medical device which serves as larynx for larynx-less people. It helps these people to communicate comfortably and in a familiar way. There are many companies in the market which produce electrolarynx devices in different configurations to suit various requirements.


Short History Of Electrolarynx

Artificial larynx was discovered in the 1920s which was then mechanically operated. Electric versions came into existence in the 1940s. And they brought a huge difference to the lives of people with their larynxes removed. Many regions of the world offer these devices free of charge to larynx-less people, together with maintenance and guidance of using them.


Electrolarynx
Electrolarynx

How It Works?

The commonest type of electrolarynx is perhaps a hand-held device which is kept against throat and switched on when the holder wants to talk. Electrolarynx generates vibrations identical to those produced by human vocal cords, allowing the patient to talk nearly normally. An internal electorlarynx is also available, which operates by vibrating an inserted tube.

It is a time-consuming process to learn using an electrolarynx. Following surgery, patients usually have scars or other damage on their throats, due to which they may need to move the electrolarynx around so as to find suitable spot to use it. After it is well placed, it allows patients to talk almost normally, though the sound of speech may be a bit flattened and mechanical. Some patients even find that this most suitable spot changes with time, making it necessary to adjust the location of the device.

External electrolarynx requires minimal maintenance and hence it is preferred by many patients. It is also easy to replace, if it doesn’t work properly. Its major minus point is one hand gets constantly engaged. One solution to this is to use the non-dominant hand for holding the device, which reduces the inconvenience.


Artificial Speech Aid for a Laryngectomee

If you talk to a person using an electrolarynx you may need to concentrate more to understand what he or she talks, though many patients become expert in speaking with the device. And even many patients like that people look at them keenly while they talk, because human communication is mainly visual. People using electrolarynx may have to explain this in the beginning, when they talk on phone, because their speech may become distorted on the telephone, and people listening to them tend to become more considerate and patient, if the use of an electrolarynx is cleared right in the beginning of the phone call.

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