What is Vocal Feminization Surgery?

| May 8, 2017

Feminization laryngoplasty, also known as voice feminization surgery is a procedure designed to make a voice box smaller and vocal cords shorter in an attempt to raise the comfortable speaking pitch. This should allow the voice to sound more feminine.

Some surgeons also try to alter the resonance as well by adding in a thyrohyoid elevation at the same time. The thyrohyoid elevation shortens the pharynx (throat) to improve the resonance of the higher pitches.

Who This Surgery is For:

The surgery is intended for patients whose voice pitch is consistently interpreted as male, despite concerted efforts at altering pitch such as speech therapy and training.

For example, a woman might have no problem being identified as female in person, but is still typically perceived as male when on the phone.

The typical patient will be a male who has or is, or may yet be undergoing transgender surgeries and wishes to change the voice to sound more feminine. Many genetic females or intersex individuals could benefit from the procedure as well.

Having a previous voice surgery such as a cricothyroid approximation (CTA) does not preclude performing this procedure. Feminization laryngoplasty might be successful, even if the CTA procedure failed. It also can be used to correct complications from a tracheal shave where the pitch was inadvertently lowered.

Alternatives:

This surgery doesn’t always work and the results aren’t always perfect. It is a new procedure that is still being improved upon. It carries with it some significant risks. A more common and traditional surgery would be a CTA.

Another alternative is to reduce the size of the vocal cord with a laser. A thinner vocal cord will vibrate at a higher pitch. Women’s vocal cords are both thinner and shorter than men’s vocal cords. The surgery might also increase the tension of the cords from some pulling and retraction after the surgery and reduce the vocal quality.

Pitch elevation in both males and females involves changes in the diameter and length of the throat during speech, so there may be a way to surgically reduce the diameter or length of the throat (or pharynx) that would change the resonance of the voice.

Voice therapy with a trained certified speech pathologist may be the most successful non invasive approach to modify your voice.

Marc Mitnick, MS, CCC-SLP marc@yourspeechtherapist.com is certified and his practice is specifically treatment oriented to the transgender community of South Florida [Ft. Lauderdale to West Palm Beach, FL] Marc’s website

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Category: Body & Soul

About marcm225: Marc Mitnick, MS, CCC-SLP, Board certified and licensed Speech, Language and Voice Pathologist, Director, Your Speech Therapist, Inc.

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