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Surgery available for a younger voice
Updated: 2004-04-20 09:22

After the tummy tuck, the forehead tightener, the nose job and the jowl trim, something still might be giving away your age: your voice. For patients who think their trembly, raspy or wispy words don't match their newly firm face and figure, there's a procedure that claims to make them sound younger too: the voice lift.

"There are people who pay US$15,000 for a face lift and as soon as they open their mouth, they sound like they're 75," said Dr. Robert Thayer Sataloff, chairman of the otolaryngology department at Graduate Hospital, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. "The wobbles, the tremors, they're what we recognize as things that make a voice sound old."

Though it's not new, cosmetic surgery for the voice is only just becoming more widely known ! and requested ! among the general public, said Dr. V. Leroy Young, a St. Louis plastic surgeon.

Like everything else, vocal cords show their age. A lifetime of talking, yelling and singing can make the cords ! and the voice ! coarse.

So Sataloff plies his patients' pipes with exercises and, in some cases, cosmetic voice surgery. There are two general surgical remedies: implants can be inserted through an incision in the neck to bring the vocal cords closer together, or substances like fat or collagen can be injected to plump up the cords and restore their youthful limberness.

Such procedures used to be largely performed on people with voice-robbing diseases or injuries, but Sataloff noticed that his patients¨ voices usually sounded better afterward, too. And increasingly, those with craggy or cracking voices are seeking the procedure for aesthetic reasons, he said.

"If I spoke a great deal, or I was shouting, on a particular day, at the end of the day I would feel exhausted," said Robert Anzidei, 75, a retired construction superintendent who underwent the voice surgery and therapy several years ago. "I don't know if I sound younger, but the hoarseness is gone, which is such a great improvement."

Still, there can be drawbacks with vocal surgery when patients are under general anesthesia, Young said. Unlike patients who are awake and can speak, they can not have their voices fine-tuned as the operation is under way ! so there's no certainty about what they¨ll sound like in the end.

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