About the Voice and Swallowing Institute

The Voice and Swallowing Institute
New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai
310 E. 14th Street
New York, NY  10003
TEL: (212) 979-4119

Dedicated to Clinical Care of Individuals with Voice Disorders and Research to Advance the Science of Laryngology

At The Voice and Swallowing Institute, we help people communicate more clearly, more easily, more effectively, and more beautifully.

It can be hard to get straight answers about your voice and voice complaints. Sometimes, they may even be dismissed as secondary or unimportant. But at The Voice and Swallowing Institute, your voice has our full attention. We understand the fears and frustrations that can accompany any type of  Voice disorder .

We recognize that your symptoms – even minor ones – can be bothersome and even frightening to you.

We take very seriously the questions and concerns you have about your voice, and the effect that a voice disorder can have on your life – no matter how small or large the problem.

The Institute is cooperatively staffed by a team of specialists trained to address the needs of individuals with voice disorders and other problems related to the larynx. Our research program, dedicated to advancing the field of diagnosis and rehabilitation of voice disorders, assures you that the care you receive from us is based upon the very latest findings.

Most importantly, though, our staff will listen to you. Voice is a highly personal thing. What works for one person may not for another. A teacher, for instance, has very different voice requirements from an actor, yet both rely heavily on their voices. Therefore, our staff is committed to communicating with you, and arriving at an individually tailored treatment plan together with you.

The medical, surgical, therapeutic and vocal counseling services we provide are designed to meet the needs of our New York patients as well as our out-of-town visitors who may be in Manhattan (New York City) to give a performance or to attend a business meeting. If you have an urgent problem or if you are a performer, we can accommodate your immediate vocal needs.

Come meet our interdisciplinary team. If you are already working with an otolaryngologist, voice therapist, singing teacher or speech coach, we’re also available for supplementary consultation.

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Meet the Team

Our Dedicated Team of Physicians, Researchers and Clinical Staff

Michael Pitman, MD

 

Michael Pitman, M.D.

Director, The Voice and Swallowing Institute

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Amy L. Cooper, MS, CCC-SLP

 

Amy L. Cooper, M.S., CCC- SLP

Director, Speech Pathology/Voice and Swallowing

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Sansar Sharma, Ph.D.

Professor of Neuroscience

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Ronald J. Baken, Ph.D.

 

Ronald J. Baken, Ph.D.

Vocal Tract Physiologist

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Speech Language Pathologists

Laura Cervantes, M.S., CCC-SLP
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist

Laura Cervantes, MS, CCC-SLPMs. Cervantes  received her B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Our Lady of the Lake University in 2007 and her M.S. in Speech Language-Pathology from the University of North Texas in 2009. Ms. Cervantes’ training and clinical experience include diagnosis and treatment of voice disorders, swallowing disorders, and pediatric speech/language disorders. She provides bilingual (Spanish) diagnostic evaluations and treatment for our pediatric and adult populations. Her clinical interests lie in the areas of tracheoesophageal voice restoration after total laryngectomy, swallowing rehabilitation, and voice rehabilitation. Ms. Cervantes is certified by the American-Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and is a Lee Silverman Voice Treatment® certified clinician.

Sarah Sietsema, MS, CCC-SLP
Senior Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist

Sarah Sietsema, MS, CCC-SLP

Ms. Sietsema joined New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in 2005. She earned a BA in Economics from Wesleyan University and an MS in Speech Language Pathology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has clinical experience in the diagnostics and treatment of voice, speech and language, and feeding/swallowing disorders for both adult and pediatric populations. She is certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and has been trained in PROMPT and VitalStim®. She is fluent in Thai and proficient in Spanish.

Denise Cruz, M.A., CCC-SLP
Senior Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist

Denise Cruz, MA, CCC-SLPDenise Cruz, M.A. CCC-SLP joined New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in 2005. Ms. Cruz received her B.A and M.A. in Speech Language Hearing Sciences from Herbert H, Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY). She provides bilingual (Spanish) diagnostic evaluations and treatment for our pediatric and adult population. She is currently a PhD. candidate at the Graduate Center City University of New York (CUNY). Her clinical interests lie in the areas of rehabilitation of head and neck cancer patients, swallowing disorders and voice disorders. Ms. Cruz is certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

Karen Keung, M.S., CCC-SLP
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist

Karen Keung, MS, CCC-SLPKaren has been part of the Speech Department at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary since June 2007. She received her B.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from New York University and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She provides bilingual (Cantonese/English) diagnostic evaluations and treatment for the pediatric and adult populations.  Her primary interests include: rehabilitation of head and neck cancer patients, voice disorders, swallowing disorders, and velopharyngeal dysfunction. She is a Lee Silverman Voice Treatment® certified clinician and is certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

Vera Leyko, MS, CCC-SLP
Senior Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist

Vera Leyko, MS, CCC-SLPVera Leyko joined the staff of the Voice and Swallowing Institute of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in March 2005. She received a B.A. in Speech and Hearing Science from Hofstra University in 2000 and a M.S. in Communication Sciences from Hunter College in 2004. Ms. Leyko’s training and clinical experience include diagnosis and treatment of voice disorders, swallowing disorders, pediatric speech-language and resonance disorders, and rehabilitation of head and neck cancer patients. Ms. Leyko is fluent in Russian. She is certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

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What is a Voice Disorder?

A voice disorder is any abnormality of the voice production system that results in a change in your voice that is unsatisfactory to you. You may experience numerous symptoms, or perhaps there is only one symptom that bothers you. The symptoms may be persistent or you may experience them only intermittently. Your symptoms may include: 

There are numerous different causes of voice disorders, and different types of voice disorders have similar symptoms. Rarely do voice problems occur overnight. More commonly, they are the result of lifestyle choices— occupational or social vocal demands – often combined with health problems or other personal factors.

There are some groups of people who are particularly at risk for developing a voice disorder because of certain features about their job, health or living habits.  

We understand how anxiety-provoking these symptoms can be. We’re here to help.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Seeing a Physician for a Voice Problem

When should I see a physician about my voice?

What type of physician should I see about my voice problem?

Why do I need The Voice and Swallowing Institute?

What types of insurance are accepted at The Voice and Swallowing Institute?

What happens during the visit?

Will I probably need surgery to cure my voice problem?

When should I see a physician about my voice?
You should see a physician if you experience:

What type of physician should I see about my voice problem?
At a minimum, you s hould visit a board-certified otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat physician). Otolaryngologists who specialize exclusively in voice problems are called laryngologists. In order to best determine whether there are any  lesions  on the  vocal folds , your visit should include an endoscopic examination, preferably videostroboscopy exam. If you are a performer, you should visit a  laryngologist  who is familiar with the vocal requirements of performers.

Why do I need The Voice and Swallowing Institute?
Medical and scientific understanding of how voice problems occur and how they are best treated is changing rapidly as increasingly sophisticated diagnostic and treatment techniques become available. The explosion in knowledge about normal and abnormal voice production, diagnostic and treatment approaches has made it almost impossible for one single individual to know everything that needs to be known about voice problems. At The Voice and Swallowing Institute, our treatment team includes a  laryngologist , voice scientist and voice therapist, among others, to provide you with the best and most current clinical care.

What types of insurance are accepted at The Voice and Swallowing Institute?
Our team participates in most insurance plans. Please call (212) 979-4119 for further information.

What happens during the visit?
When you arrive for your appointment, you will need to complete registration forms, including insurance referral information that may be necessary for your particular plan. Then, you will be asked to complete a short questionnaire about the symptoms you may be experiencing. You will participate in an in-depth interview with the team regarding your health, your voice, and your lifestyle. We need to get to know you – your profession, your personality, even your hobbies can all affect your voice!

Your visit will probably include a laryngeal videostroboscopy examination. This is an examination of the  larynx  using an oral endoscope connected to a digital video camera. This is not painful at all. Topical anesthetic may be sprayed at the back of the mouth to make the exam more comfortable.

Vocal Function Testing may also be performed, including asking you to produce a variety of words and sounds, modified in different ways, to test different aspects of voice. We will discuss our findings and treatment recommendations with you at the time of the initial evaluation. You will be given the time and opportunity to ask questions and raise any concerns you may have.

You will leave your appointment with information about your diagnosis and a plan for treatment or any further testing that may be necessary.

Will I probably need surgery to cure my voice problem?
It depends upon the cause of the voice problem, of course. For a few types of voice problems, surgery is the best treatment. But for many types of voice problems, surgery is not the first treatment, and for some types of problems, surgery is not recommended at all. Voice disorders may be treated with various medicines, and often with voice therapy sometimes by itself, and sometimes before or after surgery. If there are multiple treatments, we will offer you all if the information needed to make an intelligent choice.

Treatment plans are complex decisions based upon many factors. The most important of these is each person’s vocal needs. Every patient at The Voice and Swallowing Institute participates in decision-making about his or her treatment in partnership with the Institute’s team.

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A Note of Caution 

The Internet is a powerful tool for obtaining information, but there is little regulation regarding the type of information provided. Anyone can publish just about anything on the web regarding voice. There is a fantastic amount of information about the voice, some grounded in scientific research, some based upon clinical experience, and some of it simply personal opinion.

We have been diligent, on this website, to provide you with accurate information, and to let you know when there is an absence of sufficient scientific evidence. We urge you to be a smart consumer of web-based health information.

Remember that only a physician should give you advice about starting, stopping or changing medications. The information we have provided is general information only. It may not apply to your specific voice problem.

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