Although speaking may be difficult after a tracheostomy, it’s generally possible. Speech and language therapy, along with aids like a speaking valve attachment, can help.

Every year more than 100,000 tracheostomies are performed in the United States. This is a procedure that includes creating a hole in the neck to allow a tube to be placed through the windpipe or trachea. This tube placement can be temporary or permanent.

If you or someone you know needs a tracheostomy, it’s normal to have a lot of questions and worries about what life will look like after. You may find comfort in knowing that with practice, most people are able to swallow and speak after.

In addition to the information below, you can read more about having a tracheostomy here.

It can be difficult to eat and speak after having a tracheostomy.

Although most people can eat normally with a tracheostomy, swallowing may be a challenge initially. You may need to first start by drinking water, progress to soft foods, and finally eat a more typical diet.

In order to speak, air is usually forced over the vocal cords at the back of the throat. However, with a tracheostomy, most of the air goes through the tracheostomy tube and not over the vocal cords.

Not everyone is able to speak following a tracheostomy, and you may notice a difference in the clarity, loudness, and clarity of your speech when you talk.

For the first several days after you have a tracheostomy, it may be difficult to even figure out how to breathe in a new way. Once you become more used to this, speech therapists may begin with swallowing exercises to build up your muscle strength before moving on to more speech-focused exercises.

Following a tracheostomy, the larynx may be damaged or impaired. This can cause an individual to lose their voice.

It’s often difficult to know when this has occurred because it can take awhile for an individual to learn how to speak again after a tracheostomy.

Your doctor may want to perform a tracheostomy instead of leaving you on a ventilator if your care will require breathing support for an extended time or if you’re being weaned off of support.

It’s important to avoid strenuous physical activities for at least 6 weeks after having a tracheostomy. You should not return to work until you’ve discussed the requirements of your job with your doctor and they have deemed it safe.

You’ll need to avoid smokes, sprays, and powders that might irritate your trach. Especially when you head outside or bathe with a tracheostomy it’s important to keep it covered so that water and dirt do not enter the tube. You should not attempt to swim.

According to one recent study, 22.1% of patients died within 30 days of having a tracheostomy, and 46.5% were not alive a year after their procedure.

Your life expectancy and quality of life after getting a tracheostomy depends largely on the health reason for having the procedure done. If you’re interested in additional information about how a tracheostomy may impact your life expectancy, you can read more here.

After a tracheostomy, you may benefit from a speaking valve attachment at the top of your tracheostomy tube that closes every time you breathe out. A speaking valve attachment allows air to enter through the tube but exit through the mouth and nose. This prevents air from leaking out and makes it easier to speak.

Even with the help of a speaking valve attachment, speech and language therapy may be necessary to help you learn how to swallow and speak in new ways. For young children, apps like Talking Tom Cat that mimic the sounds they make can offer additional inspiration to keep practicing.

If speaking is difficult, you may wish to take advantage of alternative forms of communication including:

A tracheostomy impacts the way air flows into the body. This can make it difficult to swallow and talk initially. Speech and language therapy, along with assistive devices, can help you to regain these skills.

It’s important to talk with your doctor about any health concerns you have related to your tracheostomy. There is a chance that your larynx may be damaged during the procedure. Your overall quality of life after the procedure will depend greatly on any underlying health conditions.