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Helping to Give the Transgender Community a Voice

March 11, 2011

Transsexualism and the role of the SLP

“Transsexualism is a condition involving a paradoxical feeling of belonging to the opposite sex. Acquiring a sex-appropriate voice is a crucial part of the patient gaining acceptance in their new gender. Speech and language therapists and otolaryngologists play an important role in influencing communication behaviour in transgender patients by altering the fundamental frequency of speech to one acceptable for the patient’s sex” (McNeil, 2006).

The fundamental frequency of speech is indeed a key to how we distinguish male and female voices. It corresponds to the perception of a voice’s pitch and can be measured using computer software. Typically male voices have a fundamental frequency between 100 and 150 Hz and female voices have a range from 170 to 220 Hz. The borderline for a voice to be perceived as female is in the range of 155-160Hz.

“Review of the literature suggests that speech and language therapy is successful at creating an acceptable fundamental frequency in transgender patients, as well as influencing other communication behaviours. Laryngeal surgery, such as cricothyroid approximation, has an important role in raising the fundamental frequency in those who do not achieve acceptable voice via non-surgical means” (McNeil, 2006).

Current Programs

One program that is currently addressing voice therapy for the transgender community is the Changing Keys program. The protocol is based on the Lessac Marsden Resonant Voice Therapy (LMRVT) program developed by Katherine Verdolini. Some aspects of the voice therapy program include stretching,  relaxing exercises, and producing the voice at a target pitch. “Difficulties  that occur in practice such as throat tightness or effortful production are also addressed” ( Davies & Goldberg,  2006).

References

Davies, S., & Goldberg, J. (2006). Clinical aspects of transgender speech feminization and masculinization. International Journal of Transgenderism, 9(3-4), 167-196.

McNeill, E J M. (2006). Management of the transgender voice. The Journal of Laryngology & Otology. Vol 120, Issue 07, pp 521-523. 

http://journals.cambridge.org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/action/displayAbstract?aid=453563

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