It’s not uncommon for a singer to need medical help for their voice over the course of their career. In that moment of crisis, what do they usually ask their colleagues?
“Does anyone know a good ENT?”
It’s not the wrong question… or at least it wasn’t wrong 20 years ago. But since then, with the dominance of the field of Laryngology, the care of the professional voice has advanced far beyond what can be done by an ENT. This advancement was underpinned by the development of videostroboscopy. An exam only infrequently done by a general ENT, videostroboscopy allows the most detailed view of the voice. In addition to greater resolution, it also permits assessment of vocal function by utilizing a strobe light to show vocal fold vibration.
Ear, nose, and throat doctors usually use traditional laryngoscopy (“a scope in the nose”), which is a small flexible endoscope that is passed through the nose. This does not give enough detail to properly diagnose and treat a professional voice.
Videostroboscopy is most commonly done by passing a small scope in the mouth, which is far less sensitive than the nose. This produces a brighter, high-resolution image of the vocal cords in action.
What is the difference between laryngoscopy and stroboscopy?
- Low resolution • High resolution
- Low magnification • High magnification
- Dark • Bright
- Through the nose (can be painful) • Through the mouth (painless)
- General overview of throat • Detailed exam of the workings of the voice
- Can’t see vocal fold vibration • Can see vocal fold vibration
- Available in most ENT offices • Only available in voice specialist’s office
Laryngoscopy (on the left) gives the impression of two bumps on the vocal cords but they are difficult to visualize. Stroboscopy shows an obvious polyp on the vocal fold, guiding treatment in a way that the blurry image on the left cannot.
Professional voice users should not consider anything other than a videostroboscopy for their voice exam.