February 24th, 2015

Voluntary Removal/Disabling of Vocal Cords

So, I have a character that got into a magically influenced accident that had a deadly side effect on his voice. Anyone who hears his voice dies very painfully- the equivalent on the body of an audible, localized nuke, pretty much. He's obviously pretty horrified by this, and decides that rather than risk killing people by accident, he's going to have his voice completely disabled. The people he works for have access to private medical care at whatever level they need, so finding a doctor able and willing to do this would not be an issue.

The issue is, I have no idea how a surgeon could disable someone's voice entirely without also affecting the other functions of the vocal cords, such as swallowing, keeping saliva out of the airway, etc.

The setting for the injury would be around the year 2005, with all applicable medical technology. Using magic to do it is not an option, as 'magic' in this world is unpredictable, unstable, and not something people should be purposely using for anything. The character is physically 22 and has been for many decades, and the accident in question happened over ten years ago, so he's had lots of time to heal and develop other means of communication. He has no interest in an artificial voice of any kind, because there's no way of guaranteeing even an artificial approximation of his voice wouldn't have the same effect as the real thing.

Questions:

1. Would there be a way to paralyze or cut the vocal cords to prevent speech, or preferably any sound from being made without inhibiting the other functions of the vocal cords? I really would like to avoid having him need a stoma or anything of the sort, and from what I've read I get the impression those are pretty much necessary when you do a complete removal of the vocal cords or a laryngectomy.

2. How invasive is a surgery on the vocal cords? Would he have a scar, and would it have faded noticeably in the ten years since the surgery?

3. What kind of sounds would he be able to make without the aid of vocal cords? What would it sound like if he tried to scream, or talk in his sleep, etc.?

4. Long shot- I know synthetic vocal cords have been developed and tested, mainly to repair damaged voices. How realistic would it be to imagine a doctor may come up with an artificial apparatus that could perform all the functions of the vocal cords except for speech?

I've tried a few searches, but everything that comes up is in reference to removal because of cancer or injury, which is a very different situation. Obviously the only references I can find to voluntary voice removal is debarking a dog, which is also very different. I also asked on the Nanowrimo forums, only reply so far is a comparison to debarking.

Search Terms: Vocal cord removal, vocal cords cut, vocal cord paralysis, laryngectomy, artificial vocal cords
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