How a Tracheostomy Affects Speech

this article describes how a tracheostomy can change the ability to speak.

Some people have serious medical conditions or problems that require a surgeon to perform a tracheostomy. This is a surgical opening in the trachea that is made under the Adam’s apple. A tube is then put into that opening, so air goes in and out of the tube rather than via the nose and mouth. For some patients a tracheostomy is a short term situation but for others it is long term.

This type of surgical procedure has many side effects that must be dealt with. For example, when one breathes, the structures in the mouth and nose warm and moisten the air and filter out debris. This is what causes us to cough and sneeze; these actions help to keep our airways clear and functioning properly.

After a tracheostomy, air does not go through the nose and mouth. So, there can be a build up of fluid and secretions in the lungs. Such secretions need to be cleared out regularly by a suction tube with a catheter, as seen below:


Cardinal CareFusion AirLife Cath-N-Glove Economy Suction Kit with Tri-Flo Catheter

Such a procedure also affects smell, taste, and swallowing, so this can affect one’s appetite and ability to eat. Also, food and secretions can get into the lungs, which can lead to serious infection or choking.

Obviously, people who have had this procedure are not able to speak normally. Air does not pass through the vocal cords, so that one cannot easily make sounds. In a few cases, the person might be able to produce a few sounds, but not much beyond that.

Fortunately, there are several options available for speaking with a tracheostomy. The tube that has been inserted into the trachea can have one with an inflatable cuff, which can help to get more air to the lungs. This makes speaking very difficult. But if you have a plain tube, you may be able to get enough air to make some speech sounds. Another option is to block the tube with the fingers or hand or use a speaking valve.

There are many options available to improve your quality of life if you have had this type of procedure. Please consider some of our products at BPI Medical Supply to help you with living with a tracheostomy.

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