This page explains about speaking valves and what to expect when your child comes to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
What is a speaking valve?
A speaking valve is a plastic attachment that fits on to the end of your child’s tracheostomy tube and which has a one-way valve inside it.
The valve opens to allow your child to breathe in through the tracheostomy tube. When they breathe out the valve closes. This diverts the air up through the voice box, throat and mouth/nose as in normal speech. Not all children will be able to produce a voice immediately the valve is placed on the tracheostomy tube. Your speech and language therapist will explain your child’s particular difficulties.
Wearing the valve and breathing in
Wearing the valve and breathing out
What are the benefits of wearing a speaking valve?
These vary from child to child but some of the benefits may include:
- a louder voice
- clearer speech/voice
- normal passage of air through the throat and mouth
- improved ability to smell and taste
- reduced secretions
- improved protection of the airway during feeding and swallowing
- easier development of babbling (early speech sounds) in young babies
- easier language development in small children
- more efficient speech i.e.more words on one breath by older children.
What are the disadvantages of wearing a speaking valve?
There are very few disadvantages. However, when your child first starts to use the valve he or she may notice that a slight increase in effort is needed to breathe out. This extra work is normal, but it may take your child a while to get used to it. He or she may therefore need to gradually build up the amount of time he or she wears the valve. Your speech and language therapist will advise you about this.
Some children produce thicker secretions as the valve does not humidify the air when your child breathes in. If necessary you can contact the tracheostomy nurse specialist (via Peter Pan ward ext 8825) to discuss this.
How is the valve fitted?
The valve will be fitted for the first time by your child’s speech and language therapist either on the ward or in the outpatient clinic depending on what is most appropriate for your child.
Whilst it is very easy to fit the valve by simply fixing it to the end of the tube the speech and language therapist will assess that it is safe for your child to use.
Please ask your child’s speech and language therapist if you have any questions about any of the advice here.
Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: April 2008
Ref: 08F0532 © GOSH Trust April 2008
Compiled by the Speech and Language Therapy Department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.
This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.