surgery available for a younger voice
[font=verdana,sans-serif][font=verdana,sans-serif]email this storyapr 18, 10:31 pm (et)
by joann loviglio
[font=verdana,sans-serif](ap) dr. robert thayer sataloff stands near monitors displaying a patient's vocal fold at his...
philadelphia (ap) - after the tummy tuck, the forehead tightener, the nose job and the jowl trim, something still might be giving away your age: your voice. for patients who think their trembly, raspy or wispy words don't match their newly firm face and figure, there's a procedure that claims to make them sound younger too: the voice lift.
"there are people who pay $15,000 for a face lift and as soon as they open their mouth, they sound like they're 75," said dr. robert thayer sataloff, chairman of the otolaryngology department at graduate hospital. "the wobbles, the tremors, they're what we recognize as things that make a voice sound old."
though it's not new, cosmetic surgery for the voice is only just becoming more widely known - and requested - among the general public, said dr. v. leroy young, a st. louis plastic surgeon and chairman of the american society of plastic surgeons' emerging trends task force.
like everything else, vocal cords show their age. a lifetime of talking, yelling and singing can make the cords - and the voice - coarse.
so sataloff plies his patients' pipes with exercises and, in some cases, cosmetic voice surgery. there are two general surgical remedies: implants can be inserted through an incision in the neck to bring the vocal cords closer together, or substances like fat or collagen can be injected to plump up the cords and restore their youthful limberness.
such procedures used to be largely performed on people with voice-robbing diseases or injuries, but sataloff noticed that his patients' voices usually sounded better afterward, too. and increasingly, those with craggy or cracking voices are seeking the procedure for aesthetic reasons, he said.
"if i spoke a great deal, or i was shouting, on a particular day, at the end of the day i would feel exhausted," said robert anzidei 75, a retired construction superintendent who underwent the voice surgery and therapy several years ago. "i don't know if i sound younger, but the hoarseness is gone, which is such a great improvement."
still, there can be drawbacks with vocal surgery when patients are under general anesthesia, young said. unlike patients who are awake and can speak, they can't have their voices fine-tuned as the operation is under way - so there's no certainty about what they'll sound like in the end.
"it can benefit people who may be getting toward the end of a singing career, it can benefit people like politicians and teachers who need to have a strong voice that carries," young said. "i'd say caveat emptor for the professional singer, but if you're a teacher and you don't want to sound like marlene dietrich, it's something to consider."
singer julie andrews was one person who found out the hard way that vocal operations don't always work. she was performing on broadway in the mid-'90s when she began having voice trouble, so she underwent surgery to remove non-cancerous nodules.
the operation left her without her renowned four-octave singing voice and she sued two doctors and mount sinai hospital in new york. the lawsuit was settled out of court in 2000 with no terms disclosed. more than 8.7 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in 2003, according to the american society of plastic surgeons. there were no statistics on how many of those were for voices, but doctors said the number would be very small.