Published: March 26, 2021

Out of Committee: Voice | World Voice Day April 16, 2021: One World, Many Voices

The theme for this year’s World Voice Day (WVD) is “One World, Many Voices.”

Sid Khosla, MD, Voice Committee member

Sid Khosla, MDSid Khosla, MDThe theme for this year’s World Voice Day (WVD) is “One World, Many Voices.” Given the many interpretations of the theme, our committee thought it was important to gather the thoughts of “many voices.” As you will see, the responses were as varied and beautiful as to be expected. 

My own interpretation is as follows: One of the reasons I became a physician was to listen to people’s stories, not the everyday conversations, but the more intimate details often discussed in the patient-physician relationship. I have come to think of these details and stories as the inner voice, a collective representation of what the person has experienced, who they are, and who they want to be. As a laryngologist, I previously focused on the external voice, assuming that a patient’s inner voice has been established long before they met me. However, some of my patients have taught me otherwise, that changing the external voice can also influence the inner. I have found this to be especially true in my patients who cannot speak after laryngeal trauma. Because they have difficulty communicating, they often give up trying to express their opinions. They withdraw and the inner voice becomes faint and fluid. After reconstruction, I see their personality change. Their inner voice blossoms as they learn to speak up. I am lucky enough to participate in their beautiful transformations. However, this is not true just for out aphonic patients. As otolaryngologists, speech language pathologists, or other voice professionals, we often see the inner voice change as the outer one becomes clearer. When I think of the theme of this year’s WVD, it reminds me of our role as voice professionals and as citizens to encourage the expression of each person’s individual voice. 

Norman D. Hogikyan, MDNorman D. Hogikyan, MDNorman D. Hogikyan, MD
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I have reflected upon the 2021 WVD theme since it was first chosen in fall of 2020, a year which is irrevocably linked to the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest, and political discord.

I like the theme; it feels good to say it. I do have this tendency sometimes to think a lot about things, really a lot, and this theme became one of those things.

The words “One World” strike me as having multiple interpretations. One is a literal sense of a single planet Earth. A more philosophical sense invokes images of solidarity and unity of purpose, or less favorably, images of toddlers or, sadly, adults screaming “mine, mine” and fighting over that one world.

The words “Many Voices” also bring to mind multiple images. There are the voices of a well-conducted ensemble, weaving together into harmonious music. The contrasting image of people shouting with a goal of drowning out other voices also comes to mind; discordant tones lacking synchrony or harmony.

So “One World, Many Voices” is a wonderful theme, but I guess open to interpretation. I, of course, kept thinking about it, and it occurred to me that there are both expressive and receptive elements to actual communication. Right? Listening, really listening, to other voices is an essential part of that calculus.

Perhaps a good interpretation of this theme is actually: One World, Many Conversations? Yeah?

I kind of like that. Let’s think about that for a while.

Anaïs Rameau, MD, MPhilAnaïs Rameau, MD, MPhilAnaïs Rameau, MD, MPhil
New York, New York

In The Spell of the Sensuous, a magnificent reflection on the disconnect of modern bodies from the natural world, ecologist and philosopher David Abram dedicates a chapter to air. As Abram explains, air is held sacred in the Navajo culture: the air entering and departing the individual through respiratory organs ultimately connect us to the surrounding winds of nature and the greater forces of the universe. Through the ritual power of speech and song and the air exchanges produced, the Navajo can alter events in the enveloping cosmos and impart their well-being in the surrounding spirit of the land. The palpable medium of the air is both spiritually and materially connecting us to each other and to the world. 

Similarly, the absence of vowels in the traditional Hebrew aleph-beth may have been intended to avoid making visible the likeness of the divine through the representation of “sounded breaths.” The Hebrew texts need to be “inspirited” by the reader’s breath to become alive and link the divine word with the world. 

Contemplating this theme of “One World, Many Voices,” I cannot help but think about the powerful tangible, yet invisible, medium of air connecting our manifold voices to each other and to the world. As we are emerging from the slumber of these pandemic months, air has become both a dangerously infectious substance that separates us from each other and that which we long to exchange outside lockdown restrictions with each other and the world though our uncovered voices.

Hakan Birkent, MDHakan Birkent, MDHakan Birkent, MD
Istanbul, Turkey

Perhaps one of the most important facts revealed by this pandemic is that we all live as parts of the same whole on this beautiful planet, regardless of religion, language, race, and color. On these hard days, we all hear and understand the feelings and voices of other people living in different parts of the world since we all have become equal in the face of this global threat. This is exactly why we need to pay more attention to each other's voices and try to hear and understand each other better now. Our voices will be the most important tool in removing the barriers among us and bringing us all together despite our cultural, social, and economic differences. We have one world, and yet, we have many voices to sound, hear in order to make it a better place for living.

In Turkey we celebrate World Voice Day by emphasizing the importance and beauty of the voice. Although we will carry out this year's activities in virtual environments, we aim to celebrate the World Voice Day activities next year simultaneously with the Voice Istanbul Meeting. May your voice always be good. I hope that the coming days will be better, and I wish everybody a happy World Voice Day with warm feelings from Turkey.

Gustavo P. Korn, MDGustavo P. Korn, MDGustavo P. Korn, MD
São Paulo, Brazil

On April 16, Brazil will celebrate the 22nd edition of the National Voice Campaign. The National Voice Campaign, a joint effort by the Brazilian Academy of Laryngology and Voice and the Brazilian Association of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, lasts for one week including April 16. Since 2003 (after its founding in 1999), it has gained international recognition in the form of World Voice Day and currently, more than 100 countries have adopted the same date and symbol for World Voice Day. Since then, many services nationwide have voluntarily participated in editions, offering free care to citizens during Voice Week, focusing on early diagnosis of laryngeal cancer and detection of alterations, and speeding up the therapeutic approach. 

Throughout these two decades, we have remained focused on the greater goal of the Voice Campaign, which uses guidance and awareness-raising activities to promote lasting awareness of voice care. Each year means another brick in the construction and creation of this alert message—prevention and therapeutics. Besides voluntary collaboration of prominent national public figures and open presentations like beat box battles, from 2010 to 2018, an inflatable giant larynx structure was developed—in reality a giant mouth-pharynx-larynx model—that visitors can enter and learn about the anatomy of the throat and how the voice is produced. Over the years, thousands of people including children have visited our inflatable model. Information about voice care was also presented in media.