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The Johns Hopkins Voice Center located at Greater Baltimore Medical Center's (GBMC) Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head & Neck Surgery Center is hitting the right notes as it mends damaged voices with a little help from Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

The Voice Center diagnoses and treats people of all ages dealing with voice disorders. And you don't have to be Steven Tyler or Tony Bennett to seek care, either. Patients include teachers, attorneys, sales representatives and receptionists, in addition to broadcast journalists and professional singers — all of whom can find even minor vocal problems to be devastating to their careers.

The Voice Center underwent a $1.6 million expansion last year, financed through the Milton J. Dance Jr. Endowment. The expansion included 5,000 square feet of patient exam rooms, as well as the Fender Music and Voice Studio, equipped with musical instruments and audio equipment donated by Fender. The studio has been a big hit with patients and staff alike.

"It's so comfortable for professional singers when they come in to work on their voice to have state-of-the-art acoustical and laryngeal imaging equipment combined with top-of-the-line musical equipment," said Barbara Messing, administrative-clinical director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center's location at GBMC.

"Singers and musicians are able to rehabilitate in familiar surroundings with studio-like accommodations that are less clinical and more comfortable," added Dr. Kenneth Charles Fletcher, director of laryngology at GBMC. "All patients with voice problems have access to this approach, so that the opera singer and the classroom teacher can benefit from this ideal method of assessment and management."

With more than 12,000 annual patient visits, the Voice Center has helped a lot of people get back in tune. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, one in three people have their voice affected by some type of disorder.

From speech pathologists to otolaryngologists, the Voice Center has a variety of specialists who work collaboratively to diagnose and treat voice conditions.

"The Johns Hopkins Voice Center's location at GBMC offers a multidisciplinary approach to specialty voice care, combining the talents of laryngologists, along with speech-language pathologists," said Dr. Lee Akst, a laryngologist who serves as the medical director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center.


"The center offers comprehensive evaluation and treatment of voice disorders, which can be helpful to anyone who finds that poor voice quality is interfering with his or her ability to meet social, professional or occupational voice needs. This might be someone with a singing complaint but also includes plenty of people with speaking voice difficulties as well."

Dan Sherwood, a clinical vocologist, said that a voice is like a "second face" in terms of how it represents a person.

"It is one of the first things noticed about us, and it is intimately linked to our personalities," Sherwood said. "When something goes awry with our vocal signature, it can be disruptive to our successful daily communication and inconvenient. For the professional voice user, however, even the slightest vocal pathology can be devastating. The Voice Center recognizes this. And it is with this sensitivity that we focus on caring for those who rely on healthy, exceptional voices in their professional lives."

—David Ogul, Tribune Content Solutions