OddFilter: Tracheotomy microphones for sale?
February 19, 2012 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Where can I buy one of those old microphone things that tracheotomy patients put up to their throats, and when they talk they sound kind of robotic?

Also, I'm not sure how they work. Would it work for someone without a tracheotomy?

[To explain the odd question, it's for an experimental music project. Does that make me sound more or less weird...?]
posted by pablocake to Shopping (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's called an electrolarynx. I believe you can use one with an intact larynx--I heard an interview on the radio with a guy who used one for a long time before having some new kind of larynx transplant, and he used it to illustrate what it sounded like.
posted by elizeh at 7:20 PM on February 19, 2012

Best answer: I don't have direct experience with them, but my understanding from something a speech pathologist told me long ago is this:

- They make the vibrations your vocal chords/folds used to make (obviously different sounding, but this is what they are substituting)
- You can use this device by holding it in place and making the shapes of words but not using your voice,
- you will be able to make all consonant and vowel sounds with it, except for 'h'.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:29 PM on February 19, 2012

It won't sound exactly the same, but you can get a similar effect by holding up a contact mic to the same place. The best part... Contact mics are an easy DIY project.
posted by drezdn at 7:42 PM on February 19, 2012

It should work, because it's just a small talk box a la Peter Frampton.
posted by Occula at 8:24 PM on February 19, 2012

Best answer: Griffin Laboratories

Prices start from $449.
posted by The Discredited Ape at 8:48 PM on February 19, 2012

Placing a contact mic on your throat won't sound anything like an electrolarynx. A contact mic just picks up the vibrations of your throat, whereas an electrolarynx is injecting vibrations. I can think of a couple of diy options that would cost a lot less than buying the real thing:

1) Put a pager motor and battery in some kind of diy enclosure. It would probably be good to decouple the vibrating head from the handle somehow. This would be very close to an early electrolarynx.

2) Build a Frampton style talk box (a speaker playing into a rubber tube), but instead of playing your guitar through it, use a simple oscillator (synth, diy, atari punk console, etc). Experiment with different waveforms and frequencies for different effects.
posted by twisted mister at 11:40 PM on February 19, 2012

I have an idea that may work..get a cheap microphone.
Attach it to an output.
Place the diaphraghm to your neck
Experiment with a synth to play different carriers into your throat.
You may need to use a lot od gain.
The mic will probably never be the same again.
posted by TheKM at 3:38 AM on February 20, 2012

The electrolarynx is just a vibrator that takes the place of your vocal fold's vibrations. You can absolutely use one without having had surgery - I tried one when I took my voice disorders class.

I think that the contact mic idea might work, or at least produce a weird sound, especially if you put it on your throat or cheek. It would pick up more of the vibrations that your voice produces. Making your own vibrating device would work too.

Otherwise, the real deal is for sale right now on eBay. There's one for $80. Just search for "artificial larynx."
posted by christinetheslp at 5:15 AM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: Also, depending on what exactly you want to do with them, they can take a lot of practice to use! People with laryngectomies (people with tracheostomies usually have other options) are often given them early after surgery to help them communicate and they often reject them and revert to writing things down because they can't make themselves understood. Most of the skill is in finding a good place to site them and then turning the vibration on and off at approximately the right places in speech.
posted by kadia_a at 9:41 AM on February 20, 2012

Response by poster: Many thanks for all the useful info folks.

And points to TheKM for creative thinking! :)

I'm definitely after the real thing though, so I'll just keep my eyes out on ebay for a second hand one. (That $80 one you saw Chrsitinetheslp looks ideal, but unfortunately they don't post to Australia).

Keep :-)ing,

posted by pablocake at 9:54 PM on February 21, 2012

Response by poster: Hey... would anyone in the US be willing to buy that $80 one on ebay and post it to me in Australia?

I'd be happy to take the risk and transfer you the money before you buy.

Please pretty please with a cherry on top? :~)

Here's the item
posted by pablocake at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2012

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