Terri Bensing Has Her Voice Back
Many people suffer from colds and infections during winter months, so Terri Bensing was hardly concerned that she experienced laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box, or larynx) each winter for about a week. The condition, which can be caused by a viral infection, caused Terri to lose her voice.
This cycle continued for several years until she lost her voice for nearly an entire month. It was only then, at the suggestion of family, that Terri scheduled an appointment with a physician.
Terri was referred to a specialist in Philadelphia where she met with pulmonologists, neurologists and allergists and had numerous diagnostic tests before she was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Because the condition occurred while she slept, Terri had no idea she had been suffering from acid reflux – stomach acid was entering her esophagus and hitting her vocal chords.
She did, however, notice the impact the disease was having on her life. It affected her activities of daily living and her work as a server at a restaurant. Terri got by with help from friends and adaptations. At work, her coworkers would help her by calling in orders to the kitchen, regular patrons would offer up their orders without her asking and, on many occasions, she would use hand motions and point to the menu to communicate. At home, she couldn’t accept hugs from her granddaughter due to sensitivity around her throat.
“Acid reflux is such a common problem one would think it would be simple to spot and treat, but it took me years to be diagnosed,” said Terri.
After the diagnosis, Terri was referred to speech therapy – also in Philadelphia – but the tolls, parking, copays and time needed for travel and appointments added up.
Terri stopped traveling to Philadelphia for therapy, but her problems persisted. Thankfully a friend recommended Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, and Terri was able to quickly begin speech therapy at the Health & Technology Center in Allentown.
A speech therapist determined that Terri had been misusing her voice – overusing it to compensate for her loss of voice – and she was unable to coordinate talking and breathing, a condition known as vocal cord dysfunction. Terri also developed a muscle tension dysphonia.
In therapy, Terri worked with a speech therapist to learn proper care of her vocal cords, track and modify the behaviors that were contributing to her voice disorder and to maintain normal breath and voice during physical activities, like stair climbing or running. Progressive relaxation, myofascial release and a technique to strengthen and coordinate her vocal cords again, were integral to her recovery.
“The therapy program at Good Shepherd was truly fabulous,” said Terri. “I have my voice back.”
Today, Terri’s voice is smooth and eloquent. Though she continues to take regular prescription medications for acid reflux, she no longer fears losing her voice and enjoys every hug she receives from her granddaughter.