Ep. 26: Nora Whittaker Jones — How to Keep Your Voice Healthy and Strong

The voice is our fundamental means of communication, allowing us to translate the ideas in our heads into vibrations that eventually become ideas in other people’s heads. My guest this week is intimately acquainted with the human voice; Nora Whittaker Jones works as a Speech Language Pathologist, and specializes in treating people who have issues with their voice.

I was one of the people that Nora treated, following vocal surgery a couple years ago to remove a benign growth from my vocal cord. The fact that I’m able to do a podcast now is testament to Nora’s work, because I had to relearn how I spoke in order to avoid continuing to injure my throat.

Nora and I focused our conversation on how the voice works and how to take care of it, including:

  • The complexity involved in producing speech
  • Potential problems with the voice
  • Therapy to help vocal wounds heal, without surgery
  • The prevalence of vocal disorders among US adults
  • The difficulty in breaking unhealthy vocal habits
  • The high rates of vocal issues among teachers
  • The major challenge of losing one’s voice
  • How to keep the voice healthy
  • What leads to vocal stress
  • A common but often missed condition called muscle tension dysphonia
  • Vocal problems as an indication of problems elsewhere in the body
  • The emotional toll of vocal difficulties
  • The value in understanding how the voice works when doing vocal therapy
  • The importance of collaboration between patient and vocal therapist
  • Resonant voice therapy
  • The difficulty in finding voice therapists
  • The importance of a written plan for practice between therapy sessions

Nora recommended visiting the website of the National Center for Voice and Speech for more information about the voice and vocal disorders.

Nora Whittaker Jones, CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist and musician whose performance experience includes opening for Bruce Springsteen, playing at the All-Good Music Festival and at WXPN’s Xpontential Music Festival. Her vocals have been featured on local hip-hop albums and a Coke Zero commercial with G-Love and Special Sauce.

Nora also performed in and wrote for the Philadelphia-based hip hop/singer-songwriter hybrid group, “The Hustle.” She has performed her original songs at such esteemed venues as the World Café Live, The Tin Angel, The Bitter End (NYC), Club Passim (Cambridge, MA), and various venues in California. Alongside performing as a professional singer/keyboardist, she has taught singing lessons for over 13 years.

Nora received a masters from Temple University in Speech Language Pathology with the intent to gain more knowledge about the science of the singing voice. Since then, she has co-taught a course in “Voice Disorders in Professional Voice Users” at Temple University.

Nora currently works at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital as an outpatient speech pathologist with the Voice and Swallowing Center while singing occasionally, maintaining a part-time private practice, and enjoying being a wife and mother.  

If you’d like to learn more about Nora, check out her website. To schedule an appointment with the Voice and Swallowing Center, call 215-955-1200.

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