The new service follows a recent change in the university’s speech pathology and audiology degree.

Wits will start providing voice therapy at the university’s speech and hearing clinic from the first week of March. This new development was publicised on the Wits twitter page on January 25.

Patients who have damaged their voice as a result of a traumatic experience or those experiencing difficulties in their voice such as hoarseness or loss of vocal range can now get help at the voice clinic located at the Umthombo building on East Campus.

“Voice therapy consists of a variety of tasks designed to eliminate harmful vocal behaviour, shape healthy vocal behaviour, and assist in vocal fold wound healing after surgery or injury,” said Bianca Kruger, the senior supervisor at the clinic.

According to Kruger, voice problems often occur in people with vocally intense occupations such as lawyers, teachers, actors, singers, performing arts students or loud children.

The establishment of the new clinic, that is run by final-year speech pathology students and Kruger, comes as result of a recent change in the speech pathology and audiology degree.

Lecturer, Dr Kim Coutts told Wits Vuvuzela, “The two degrees have grown substantially in their own right over the last decade or so and it is now not feasible to study them together. All of the other South African universities have split the degree as well. Wits was the last to do so.”

Speech pathology focuses on the speech, language, voice and swallowing of adults and children, whereas audiology focuses on the hearing and balance systems.

According to Coutts, the splitting of the two fields into two different degrees, means that more students will be able to enrol for the programme which should result in the extension of services to more people.

“We have a lot more students so we are really trying to diversify the kinds of patients we can see. This also means we can spend a lot more time with patients,” Coutts said.

Kruger and Coutts say the voice clinic service, which is open to the Wits community, will also be accessible to the broader Johannesburg community, easing the burden on government hospitals and providing a solution to a problem caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the burden of care on health facilities [we] thought that this clinic could provide some relief for these individuals who are at present not being prioritised in our health system,” Kruger said.

Coutts added that “A lot of the government hospitals are very understaffed and overworked. With the country still battling covid-19, these patients often do not get treated.”

Consultations at the clinic can cost patients R100 – R200 per session. Sessions will be conducted either in person, via telephone or online platforms. The duration of the therapy will depend on the severity of the problem.

FEATURED IMAGES: Hearing aids, otoscopes and pamphlets on display at Wits University’s speech and hearing clinic. Photo: Akhona Matshoba