What is a tracheostomy? What is “leak” speech?

What is a tracheostomy? What is “leak” speech?

As a result of my injury the nerves controlling my diaphragm don’t work. Because my diaphragm doesn’t work neither do my lungs. As a result I now need a machine to pump air in and out of my lungs. This machine or ventilator, could be used to force air through my mouth or nose into my lungs. This would require me to wear a mask all the time, making conversation and eating impossible. Not a happy outcome!

The solution is a tracheostomy (which is what I have). A tracheostomy is a surgical incision in the windpipe (trachea) that allows a plastic tube with an inflatable cuff to be inserted into the windpipe.

The ventilator can then be attached to the plastic tube and air can be pushed in and out of my lungs, bypassing the mouth and nose. At the end of this post is part of a video that Gary Hegadus (professional film maker and good friend), my wife and I made in conjunction with the Austin Hospital. In the video Prue Gregson, Senior Speech Pathologist, with the assistance of Trache Tom (a 3-D model) explains how a tracheostomy works.

What is “leak speech”?

The cuff in my tracheostomy tube can be inflated or deflated. When the cuff is inflated air is forced directly from the ventilator in and out of my lungs. However, when the cuff is deflated air is able to leak out across my vocal chords. This leakage across my vocal cords allows me to speak. Hence the expression “leak” speech.

The video gives a visual demonstration of the plastic tube, the inflatable cuff and how air leaks across the vocal cords.

Click here to view the video.

Support our supporters

Steven Killey (Lift Me-stairlifts and low platform lifts) has been a keen and practical supporter in lots of ways. His latest venture is to raise funds for an exercise bike for me. He recently competed in the“Wings for Life” run and raised over $2000 towards the bike. For a quote on stairlifts and low platform lifts from a true professional contact Steve on 0409 931 446 or at: http://www.liftme.com.au/aboutus.html

Next Time: An extraction at the dentist’s

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One thought on “What is a tracheostomy? What is “leak” speech?

  • Lesley Wing Jan
    04/08/2016 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for the clear written explanation and the video about tracheostomies and leak speech. It is amazing to learn about the medical advances that sustain and enhance people’s lives.

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