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the cords in detail and study the wave as it occurs
over the cords, he says. The good news is that
recent information about how the voice works has
transformed what doctors at the voice center can
diagnose and treat today.
While disease can contribute significantly to
voice issues, that is not always the cause. Sometimes
we do it to ourselves. Because the voice operates
more-or-less on automatic pilot, without our having
to think about it, we sometimes unknowingly put
extra strain on our already hard-working vocal
folds. We overburden our voices by talking a lot
when we have a cold, or by smoking, or by yelling.
Like an overworked muscle, the vocal cords can get
tired and stiff and prone to injury. The result can be
calluses, nodules, ulcers and other painful damage
to our cords.
That damage can show up years later. In fact,
the center is seeing an “epidemic” of voice issues
in people who survived the 1960s era of sex, drugs
and rock ‘n’ roll, Dr. Berke says. Members of that
cohort, now in their 60s, 70s and 80s, are being seen
with throat cancers and other problems tied to the
common sexually transmitted human papilloma
virus (HPV), apparently contracted from risky
behaviors in their free-wheeling youth. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2013
that each year about 8,400 people in the U.S. are
diagnosed with cancers of the back of the throat that
may be caused by earlier HPV infections.
SINGER HARLEY JAY WAS CONVINCED
HE OVERTAXED HIS VOICE while performing
the lead role in the play Rent for two years, both
on Broadway and on tour. It made sense; he was
performing eight shows over six days each week.
“It got to where we had to hide containers of water
all over the stage because I’d have to keep sipping
water to be able to get any notes out,” he recalls.
Later, Jay cut back to singing his signature city-
country style with a band for four or five nights a
week. But by then his voice had become “impossible,”
he says. “Sometimes my voice would crackle and
crack and make horrendous sounds, or I’d open my
mouth to sing and no sound would come out.”
After a few years of putting up with it, he found
his way to UCLA and Dr. Berke, who he vaguely
remembered meeting years earlier. The news was
not good. Dr. Berke’s examination showed that Jay
had cysts and a hemorrhage, which meant that Jay
had to stop talking entirely for four weeks until the
hemorrhage cleared up. Only then could the cysts
be surgically removed.
In the fall of 2013, after a month of jotting
messages on his cell phone and the nearest
napkin or turning to his wife to be his voice,
Jay underwent a three-hour operation. Six more
weeks of silence — not even a whisper — followed.
“Being unable to speak was depressing. I felt like a
hermit,” Jay says. His old way of relieving stress
was to drive around in his car and sing his heart
out, but during recovery he had to learn other
ways to cope. “I made videos on Instagram, and
I wrote poetry — things you can do without a
voice,” he says. After six weeks, he could talk again,
but Dr. Berke forbade him to sing for another four
weeks. For Jay, all the waiting was more painful
than his healing vocal cords, which he says felt like
a bad sore throat.
Then the time finally arrived for him to sing.
“I immediately scheduled a voice lesson and the
results were so good that I hopped in my car and
sang really hard,” he recalls.
Jay says he now, at age 31, sounds better than he
did when he was 20. “Since the surgery, my voice is
not quite as gravelly, which [is a sound that] many
rock singers may like. But, hey, I can sing like this
for six hours a day. That sure beats being a gravelly
singer who can sing only two hours a week,” he says.
To show off his new, improved vocals, he plans to
release an EP with his band in October 2014.
Jerry and Ann Moss
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
WHY WE GIVE
Jerry Moss, co-founder
of A&M Records, and
his wife Ann funded
the Ann and Jerry Moss
Voice/Sound Studio at the
UCLA Voice Center for
Medicine and the Arts
in the Department of
Head and Neck Surgery.
UCLA honored Ann and
Jerry Moss at the UCLA
Head and Neck Surgery
Luminary Awards in 2014
for their philanthropic
support of UCLA.
“The Center provides
people with voice
disorders can improve
their artistry and
INSIDE THE VOICE CENTER, NOSTALGIC
PHOTOS of John Lennon and other rock ‘n’ roll
artwork decorate the walls of the Westwood
Boulevard offices. The atmosphere is homey
and warm, in contrast to the gleaming state-of-
the-art technology. All new patients receive a
comprehensive evaluation that includes an analysis
of speech and voice quality and a videostroboscopic
examination of the larynx, designed to assess the
motion and pliability of the vocal folds. Laryngeal
electromyography is performed as needed. Then
a comprehensive management plan is developed,
which may include voice therapy, surgery or in-office
or operative procedures.
We are thrilled to
be a part of this
state-of-the-art facility specializing
in voice medicine.”
– Ann and Jerry Moss