Explaining Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Voice (Diagnosis and Unconventional Treatment)
Updated: Oct 30
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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an American environmental attorney, author, and activist. He is the son of Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy is known for his advocacy work on environmental issues, particularly related to water and air quality, and his efforts in promoting renewable energy sources.
Recently, he has made headlines and found himself at the center American politics when he announced his candidacy for president. With the spotlight has come questions about his unique voice. Kennedy has been open and honest about his rare voice disorder, which is called spasmodic dysphonia (SD). He has also extensively talked about his medical treatments over the years. RFK recently promoted a Japanese health center, The Kyoto ENT Surgicenter, for performing a one of a kind procedure
Spasmodic dysphonia is a rare neurological disorder that affects the muscles of the voice box (larynx), causing involuntary spasms and disruptions in speech. People with spasmodic dysphonia may experience difficulty speaking due to voice breaks, strained or strangled speech, and a hoarse or breathy voice quality. This condition can significantly impact a person's ability to communicate effectively.
The exact cause of spasmodic dysphonia is unknown, but it is believed to involve a neurological dysfunction in the basal ganglia region of the brain. Some cases may have a genetic predisposition, and environmental factors could potentially trigger the condition.
Types of Spasmodic Dysphonia:
There are different types of spasmodic dysphonia, including:
Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia: In this form, the vocal cords involuntarily slam together, causing interruptions in speech and a strained or strangled voice quality.
Abductor Spasmodic Dysphonia: In this type, the vocal cords involuntarily open, resulting in a breathy or whispery voice.
Most Common Treatment Options:
1. Botulinum Toxin (Botox) Injections:
Botox injections are a common and effective treatment for spasmodic dysphonia.
The toxin is injected directly into the affected muscles of the larynx, temporarily paralyzing them and reducing spasms.
Botox injections typically provide relief for a few months, after which the treatment needs to be repeated.
2. Speech Therapy:
Speech therapy by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) can help individuals with spasmodic dysphonia learn techniques to control their speech muscles.
Techniques may include relaxation exercises, voice modulation exercises, and strategies to improve breath control during speech.
3. Alternative Therapies:
Some individuals explore alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or herbal supplements. However, the effectiveness of these treatments is not scientifically proven.
4. Psychosocial Support:
Living with a chronic voice disorder can be emotionally challenging. Support groups, counseling, and therapy can help individuals cope with the emotional aspects of spasmodic dysphonia.
Type II Thyroplasty:
Roughly nine months ago, Kennedy publicly discussed his unconventional procedure done by a Japanese ENT. Kennedy had to travel to Japan as this procedure, called a Type II Thyroplasty, has not been approved by the FDA here in the United States.
Thyroplasty is a surgical procedure used to treat voice disorders, particularly cases where the voice is weak, breathy, or strained due to vocal cord issues. Type II thyroplasty, also known as medialization thyroplasty, is a specific form of this surgery. During the procedure, the patient is often placed under local or general anesthesia and kept awake. A small incision is made in the neck, usually on the side, over the thyroid cartilage (Adam's apple). An implant (often made of silicone or Gore-Tex) is inserted into the pocket. The implant serves to push the affected vocal cord towards the midline, improving its positioning and allowing it to make better contact with the opposite vocal cord during speech and sound production. The patient is often asked to speak or sing during the procedure to help the surgeon assess the immediate impact of the implant on their voice.
Type II thyroplasty is considered a safe and effective procedure for restoring vocal function in individuals with certain vocal cord disorders. However, the success of the surgery can depend on various factors, including the underlying condition, the skill of the surgeon, and the patient's commitment to postoperative care and voice therapy. Kennedy claims to have seen a dramatic improvement in his voice since getting the procedure done.