magaretnahmias

Interesting Observation about Brian's voice.


So something caught my ear recently. I watched Brian's performance of I'll Be Home For Christmas from the December 2020 holiday show and noticed he had a slight voice tremor, just like my mom does with her essential tremor.  Although I knew he has  Spasmodic dysphonia, it sounded eerily similar.  In fact, if I did not know about his condition, I would have sworn he had essential tremors, especially after learning you can have essential voice tremors separately from the regular body tremors.  Now that I  listened to it closer, it did not last that long. If you weren't listening to it, you might have missed it.

So  What is  Essential Tremor?

T is a non-degenerative progressive neurological disorder that can cause shaking in the body.  It usually affects hands first, whether in motion or resting. As it progresses, it can affect the whole body and face and then voice too as the person gets older. Onset is usually the late 40s to early 50s, although my mom got it when she was 29.  It is also hereditary, which means you can pass it down to someone else.  Medicines are available to treat tremors. These are beta-blocker generally used for the heart, ant ti-seizure medications which my mom takes, tranquilizers and Botox.  For severe cases, a pacemaker-like implant can be put into the brain. Although tremors look similar to Parkinson's, it does not destroy the brain although research suggests it could.  Although common, it still unknown to the larger community.

Essential voice tremors and Spasmodic dysphonia sound similar but originate in different regions in the throat and require other treatments.  Essential voice tremors can develop in the voice box, palate, or pharynx. According to the  Tremor Talk, the donor magazine of the International Essential Tremor Foundation, tremors originating outside the voice box are the most commonly reported in 93% of patients.  Of those, 54%  had body tremors.  This confirms my mom's progression from the body to voice tremors. The onset usually happens around 60-69 years ( the seventh decade of life in life stage terms). My mom was 68  when she got it.

In contrast, Spasmodic Dysphonia affects only the vocal cords when air is pushed out of them. Depending on the type can cause breathiness or straining.  You could definitely hear that before in Brian's voice. I thought the tremor was odd, especially after so much improvement. 

A particular form of Botox is used to treat essential voice tremors, with medical treatments being highly effective. In contrast, voice therapy is only the effective treatment for  Spasmodic Dysphonia. Although I found a video stating that the pacemaker-like device I mentioned earlier is being investigated as a possible treatment. 

Knowing his history of voice tremors is unlikely, although they have definitely been easier to treat, and he is at the typical onset age. In addition,  the statistics stated in the article favor a progression from the body to voice tremors, not voice tremors alone. Though the article states that SD doesn't affect singing, I wonder if deviations from the norm are standard because it affects Brian's singing with competing conditions compounding it. I was not following the group when the condition started, so it could have been worse before.  If that is the case, he has significantly improved since that time.  Regardless I thought it was interesting because it sounds like what mom has, although it isn't. It is not as bad as I felt when I first heard it.

Source:  Essential Tremor of The Voice  vs. Spasmodic Dysphonia   Tremor Talk Magazine  Jan 2021  #33
An Internet search for the names of the medicines used to treat  Essential  Tremors


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