Do You Sound Older Than You Look? There's a Surgical Option for That

Princess 19 on 27 Oct 2012 at 9:00am

Have you ever wished you had a different voice? 

British journalist Lynne Wallis had done her best to ward off the signs of age -- face creams, hair dye and the like. But suddenly, she found herself sounding older - with a deep and crackling voice. People thought she was sick. An obviously 20 something-year-old telemarketer spoke to her as if she was elderly.

She did some research and discovered a procedure called "voicelifts" allegedly being done in the US where "fat is taken from the stomach and grafted on to the vocal folds to plump them up and enhance voice performance." Apparently, it is a procedure that can be both cosmetic and medical (to help with patients that have had nodule surgery, paralysis, etc.). 

Never heard of it? Neither had our blog team. So we asked our experts what vocal surgery was about

"Yes, fat injections for atrophic (aging, thinning vocal cords) has been done for quite a few years," says Sacarmento facial plastic surgeon Dr. Reginald Rice.  "The problem is that although it may improve the voice initially (a few weeks) it just isn't satisfactory."

He adds, "Surgery to permanently alter an otherwise normal voice is not wise due to the imprecise nature and outcome of such surgery."

So, fat has been used to alter vocal chords...  But, other doctors recommended using fillers - also known as "Radiesse Voice" injections.

"Otolaryngologists (ear,nose, throat doctor) may augment the vocal cords with injections...of Radiesse™ and Coapetite™," says Jacksonville plastic surgeon Dr. Lewis Obi.

Chicago facial plastic surgeon Dr. Anil Shah says, "Radiesse can be injected into the vocal cords in selectcases of patients with vocal cord paresis or paralysis. It is critical that this injection be done with someone who specializes in voice and experience using Radiesse."

But, more often than not, RealSelf doctors do NOT recommend this procedure for cosmetic enhancement.

"This is not elected for elective alteration in the voice but rather for patients who suffer from vocal cord paralysis," says another Chi-town plastic surgeon, Dr. Otto Placik.

So, in the end, these procedures are out there. But, many doctors consider them risky. At roughly $25,000 for the stomach fat vocal cord grafting procedure, it can be also very expensive. Stop smoking. Stop shouting at concerts.  Limit your alcohol intake now  Those may be a cheaper solution.  But, hey, Demi Moore is raspy. Just say you are emulating her! 

 

Would you ever consider surgery to alter your voice?

 

Photo Credit:  Daily Mail  and pbpulse.com

Comments (9)

I have had both a thyroplasty for vocal cord medialization - moving my vocal cords closer together as they were bowing from repeated viral infections. I am both a professional singer and a teacher. It worked miracles for my voice for 12 years until a dimwit of a anesthesiologist damaged both of my superior laryngeal nerves during his careless intubation for sinus surgery. This trauma is best understood as you would understand the effects of polio. The nerve damage caused a lessening of muscle mass or bulk, like one would see in a polio patient. My cords were not approximating. Swallowing became dangerous and not just during eating - I was waking up choking during the night as my own saliva was running down into my lungs because my vocal cords were not closing. Thus fat injection was tries. Yes, I have had to have the procedure repeated, as the nerve damage cannot be repaired. But it is a small price to pay for not choking to death on food or in my sleep. But patients have to truly understand the word PATIENCE....because the fat is put in to the vocal cord in ONE spot, it has to spread itself through the cord. And sticking a needle into a vocal cord is somewhat traumatic to the cord. So TAKE IT EASY. Listen to and obey the instructions of your surgeon. Yes, there is true frustration in the waiting. But this is a BODY PART, and this is real surgery. Let it heal. Good luck.
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Wow, thank you for sharing your story with us! It's obvious you have been through quite a lot.

With the fat injections, are you able to continue singing? 

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Oh yes, I am able to continue singing, but I will be having another fat injection procedure this summer. - my fourth. That's the issue of the nerve damage. Most people would only need ONE.I have a friend who had had both surgeries as well...but she has NOT followed directions, thus, she is having a very poor result. You will be able to speak sooner than sing. Some surgeons require absolute voice rest for 48 hours, others for 2 weeks, and some not at all. Whichever they prefer, your voice will sound "husky" and you must maintain what is called a "confidential voice" for at least 6 weeks. They will often do a "scope" at 2 weeks to see how your cords look. You should ask to see the results of this so that you can see how your cords are progressing. If you think your voice sounds "perfect" at 2 weeks, then you have most likely absorbed the fat too quickly, which simply means your cords were very "needy" and will need to be injected again. I never had a "sore throat" after from the surgery, but just the normal bit from the intubation. The more slowly the fat is absorbed, the better. Basically, what you have retained after about anywhere from 3-6 months should stay put pretty well, but people should NOT be discouraged if they need another injection, as this is to give you adequate approximation of your cords, not just to "fix" how you sound. The surgeons usually try to inject as much as the cords tell them is prudent to inject, which means a bit of OVER injection because you will always absorb some fat cells. Many older people whose vocal cords have thinned to the point that they do not approximate properly DO have multiple episodes of choking and can sometimes develop what is called "aspiration pneumonia" from saliva being inhaled into the lungs. Bedridden patients in nursing homes are particularly prone to this. My doctor keeps me on a 23-hour hold at the hospital to assure that I am both able to eat and drink, and am having no issues with respect to choking when I do, or breathing easily from swelling. Frankly, the only thing that caused any pain is the small incision they make in your belly to take the fat out. Remember, as I said before, this is a BODY PART, this is REAL SURGERY under GENERAL ANESTHESIA and the only time anyone should consider ANYTHING "minor surgery" is when it is being done to someone else!! One more thing....not every otolaryngologist (ENT surgeon) has had the specialized training to even perform this surgery...so choose wisely. Ask how many times he/she has performed this particular surgery - not usually the "first call" surgery. And ask what his/her percentage is of patients needing a second surgery, particularly if it is soon after the first, and if so why. It would not be out of line to have to have a repeat, particularly with the type of damage I have had...but the surgeon should be able to present good results. If he/she gets "huffy" answering your questions or brushes you off...GO TO ANOTHER SURGEON!! I live and sing in the DC metro area. I am happy to recommend MY surgeon, Dr. Steven A. Bielamowicz,(Bella- MAH - wich) Director of the Division of Otolaryngology at The Medical Faculty Associates, The George Washington University Hospital. His telephone is 202.741.3260. WONDERFUL man and very soft spoken...happy to answer questions, conservative and does NOT try to push anyone into surgery. But if he tells you it's a good idea to do it, BELIEVE HIM...and then follow his instructions!! If Julie Andrews had had her surgery with HIM< she would still be singing!!
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I think it's kinda cute, probably because it has never happened to me. Hey guys, card me! I'm AARP but had a face lift and look fabulous!!!!! But my voice is my age. Oh, well. I love the difference in people's voices and hope that no one risks surgery for a "personal" and sweet and wonderful thing as their voice signature. Unique!!!
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I get the same thing, everyone calls me "Sweety" or "Honey" on the phone.  I feel like saying, I swear I have a few years on you...... but I hold back. ;)  It's actually a compliment I guess.

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I don't think this surgery is for me!  Phone solicitors still ask me "can I talk to your mommy?" (which is annoying but actually nice because it gives me an 'out').   But I kinda always liked the raspy Kathleen Turner-ish voice... you always want what you don't have!

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LOL People ask to speak to my parents too, and I don't think I sound that young.

I don't have huge issues with my voice; I don't love it, but I wouldn't change it. So, no surgery for me.

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As a singer, I would totally be up for a procedure to enhance my vocals. But only if it were recommended and safe, which it doesn't seem to be.

Interesting thought though! 

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This surgery isn't to "alter" your voice...it's to give you BACK your voice..and using your own body fat is the safest way to do this. But most people who have this aren't doing it for "cosmetic" purposes. If your vocal cords aren't approximating properly (closing) when you swallow, you will choke. Or as my mother used to say, your saliva/food/etc. went down the "wrong throat." But for people who develop focal dystonia...a SHAKINGvoice, BOTOX is the recommended fix. Totally different problem. And yes, it DOES have to be repeated when the tremor returns. Diane Rheame(sp), famous on NPR has this problem.
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