Hard To Swallow?

Therapy programs strengthen oral muscles, relieve taxing dysphagia.

For 22 years, Delta Swift performed one of the most important yet thankless jobs in government. As the IT manager for Orange County, she was responsible for making sure residents and businesses received their tax bills on time.

“I actually worked for the county for 39 years,” Delta reveals. “The first 17 were spent in data processing. I worked my way up from key entry operator to systems analyst. After that, I started working for the tax collector.”

Now 78, Delta is still very tech savvy. Good thing, too, because a battle with hoarseness recently made communicating orally a problem. For several weeks, she could barely speak above a whisper.

Not long after that problem developed, Delta began to have trouble swallowing. When that issue became so acute that she nearly choked while eating a couple of times, she visited Daniel L. Rothbaum, MD, at Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat.

“I first saw Delta in August, and based on her symptoms, the first thing I did was recommend a swallowing test,” he confides. “That test showed she had what we call dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, particularly in the back of her mouth, in the pharynx.

“We also performed a videostroboscopy. That test uses a strobe light to examine the vocal cords. It allows us to see the vocal cords in motion and detect abnormalities, and in Delta’s case it showed she was straining her voice substantially.”

Based on his findings, Dr. Rothbaum recommended swallowing therapy and voice therapy for Delta. Worried initially that her condition might require surgery, Delta gladly accepted Dr. Rothbaum’s recommendation.

“I was more than willing to give these two therapies a try, and I was pleasantly surprised they both worked very well,” Delta reports. “For the swallowing therapy, I was given a series of exercises that were basically exaggerated forms of swallowing.

“For one, you just close your mouth real tight and swallow hard. For another, you put liquid in your mouth, let it sit for five seconds, then swallow. And for another, you put liquid in your mouth, put your tongue between your teeth, and swallow hard.”

The exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles in the throat that aid swallowing, and they worked well for Delta, who regained the ability to swallow smoothly without issue in a couple of weeks. She soon regained her voice as well.

With the aid of speech language pathologist Jamie Smith, SLP, Delta was taught a series of speaking exercises that alleviated tension on the muscles used to speak. The speech therapy program lasts between six and eight weeks, but Delta was speaking clearly long before completing the program.

“It all worked out very well for me,” she exudes. “I’m no longer hoarse, and I can swallow food and pills normally again. I’m so thankful for everything that everybody at Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat did for me. I recommend them to anybody.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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    • Atlantic Ear, Nose and Throat, P.A.

      Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat is a comprehensive, full-service otolaryngology practice with offices in both Seminole and Volusia counties. In the practice, Devang Shah, MD, and Daniel Rothbaum, MD, combine surgical excellence with a compassion... Read More

    • Devang Shah, MD

      Devang M. Shah, MD, is board certified in otolaryngology. After receiving his medical degree with honors from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, he completed his surgical internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hosp... Read More

    • Daniel Rothbaum, MD

      Daniel Rothbaum, MD, is board certified in otolaryngology. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine, he completed his general surgical internship and residency at J... Read More