Back to Top
Utility Nav Top Nav Content News Nav Site Search
Close Main Menu

Research article documents a professor’s voice disorder

Research article documents a professor’s voice disorder
Dr. Rebecca Johnston presented an academic article on a voice disorder she suffered at the Georgia Music Educators Association conference in January.

When a vocalist sustains injury to her vocal chords, the threat of the loss of a career can be devastating.

For Dr. Rebecca Johnston, associate department chair and coordinator of music education at the University of North Georgia (UNG), an academic article about neurogenic disorders of the voice was an opportunity for her to share her experience through an academic article presented at the Georgia Music Educators Association (GMEA) conference Jan 25-27 in Athens, Georgia.

"Earlier in my career I was a coloratura soprano, with an extremely high, light and flexible voice," Johnston said. "When my ability to sing higher pitches, project volume and control my voice disappeared, it was evident something was horribly wrong,"

A long diagnostic process revealed vocal fold paresis (VFP), a disruption of the nerve signal to the muscles that move the vocal chords. At the time, she had become an educator, but the injury dramatically reduced her ability to speak, much less sing. Through rigorous vocal therapy, medication, and some recovery of the neural circuit, she regained some of her singing ability, but the damage was permanent.

Johnston spent a year researching and writing "One Teacher's Experience of Voice Disorder and Its Implication for Music Educators." The submission and revision process took another two years, and she presented her work at the GMEA convention.

"Afterward, the most common comment was, 'I had no idea such a thing existed,'" Johnston said. "That was the primary reason I wrote the paper. One problem with VFP is that the symptoms mimic common functional disorders. It takes a referral to a laryngologist (a vocal system specialist) and diagnosis via LEMG (laryngeal electromyography) with an attending neurologist to receive diagnosis and appropriate intervention."

UNG follows Section 508 Standards and WCAG 2.0 for web accessibility. If you require the content on this web page in another format, please contact the ADA Coordinator.

Back to Top