Voice disorders are defined as differences in pitch, loudness, or quality of the voice which distracts from what is being said. There are many causes for voice disorders and when suspected the speech pathologist (SLP) refers the individual to an ENT for an evaluation to determine a medical cause, if there is a medical cause. Once cause is determined, the SLP will treat the voice disorder accordingly.
Symptoms of Voice Disorders
- Change in Voice
- Discomfort or Pain
- Chronic Cough
Types of Voice Disorders
- Laryngitis is an inflammation or swelling of the vocal folds caused by excessive use of the voice, bacterial or viral infections, or irritants such as inhaled chemicals or stomach acid that has backed up into the throat.
- Vocal cord paralysis (or paresis) is a voice disorder that occurs when one or both of the vocal cords do not open or close properly. Vocal cord paralysis is a common disorder, and symptoms range from mild to life threatening. Someone who has vocal cord paralysis often also has difficulty swallowing and coughing because food or liquids can slip into the trachea and lungs.
- Spasmodic dysphonia is a voice disorder caused by involuntary movements of one or more muscles of the voice box, causing the voice to break or to have a strained or strangled quality.
- Vocal nodules are small, benign (noncancerous) growths on the vocal cords, usually related to vocal abuse. Frequently seen among teachers and professional singers, vocal nodules are callus-like growths that form by repeated pressure at the juncture where the folds come together to vibrate. Vocal cord scarring can occur as a result of vocal nodules.
- Vocal polyps are benign growths similar to vocal nodules but are softer and more like blisters than calluses. They most often form on only one vocal cord. A vocal polyp is often associated with long-term cigarette smoking but may also be linked to hypothyroidism (decreased activity of the thyroid gland), gastroesophageal reflux or chronic vocal misuse.
Maintaining a Healthy Voice Protocol
Vocal Hygiene Protocol
Regardless of the cause of your voice disorder or the management plan prescribed, good vocal hygiene is always advised. Taking care of your voice in the best way possible will ensure optimal outcomes and ensure that you maintain your quality voice over time.
In doing so, it is important to remember the following guidelines:
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids (64 oz/day)
- Avoid caffeine
- Avoid alcohol
- DON’T SMOKE or use other tobacco products
- Avoid smoky environments such as bars
- Avoid Shouting/Yelling
- Do not raise your voice louder than normal conversational loudness
- Instead of yelling up/down the stars, stomp your feet
- Don’t try to compete with noise: turn the volume down on televisions and radios before
- you try to talk to someone.
- Avoid talking on the phone in the car
- Try not to talk over loud freeway/outdoor noise
- Avoid noisy restaurants and bars
- Give your voice a rest at the end of the day (after 5pm)
- Engage in activities that don’t involve talking: reading, watching tv, etc.
- Try to make all your phone calls before 5pm
- Try not to answer the phone after 5 pm, “let the machine get it.”
- Use email/texting as much as possible after 5pm to assist with resting your voice
- Avoid throat drops or anything with menthol/eucalyptus (these are very irritating to the
- Use hard candies (regular or sugar free) to keep your throat lubricated if desired. (Avoidmint, sour candies)
- Don’t whisper if your voice is bad: hoarseness can be a sign your voice needs a break! Limit
talking and write instead.