Voice Disorders

1 What are Voice Disorders?

Voice disorders may occur as a result of misuse of vocal cords, allergies and cancer.

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2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of voice disorders include:

  • Hoarse or Raspy voice,
  • Loss of the ability to hit high notes when singing,
  • Sudden changes in the voice which make it deep,
  • Raw, Achy or Strained throat,
  • Trouble talking.

3 Causes

Factors that can cause voice disorders include:

  • Talking too much, screaming or constantly clearing the throat,
  • Smoking,
  • Infections,
  • Upward movement of stomach acids,
  • Growths due to viruses,
  • Cancer,
  • Diseases that paralyze the vocal cords.

4 Making a Diagnosis

A physical exam and a medical history are used to diagnose voice disorders. Other tests that can be used to view the larynx include:

  • Using a mirror similar to a dental mirror to view the throat
  • Flexible laryngoscope, a flexible tube containing a light and camera that is inserted through the nose
  • Rigid laryngoscope, a tube that is inserted through the mouth
  • Videostroboscope, a camera that is combined with a flashing light to provide a slow-motion view of the vocal cords as they move

Other tests include sound (acoustic) analysis to measure irregularities in the sound produced by the vocal cords and laryngeal electromyography, in which small needles are inserted through the skin to measure electrical currents in the voice box muscles.

5 Treatment

Treatment for voice disorders depends on the cause. Some treatments include:

  • Resting the voice, drinking more fluids  liquids and voice therapy.
  • Allergy treatments if an allergy is creating too much mucous in the throat.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Medications to treat inflammation of the throat, gastroesophageal reflux or prevent the regrowth of blood vessels.
  • Removal of lessions, such as polyps, nodules and cysts. Procedures used include microsurgery, carbon dioxide laser surgery and potassium titanyl phosphate (KTP) laser treatment.
  • Botox injections to relieve muscle spasms or abnormal movements for patients with a neurological movement disorder  that affects the muscles of the larynx (spasmodic dysphonia).
  • Fat and collagen injections through the mouth or skin of the neck to add bulk to the paralysed vocal cords or to treat vocal cord weakness.
  • Thyroplasty - a procedure in which a small opening is created in the cartilage. The doctor inserts an implant through opening and pushes it against the paralysed vocal cords, moving it closer to the other  vocal cord.

6 Prevention

Some voice disorders can be prevented by:

  • Drinking plenty of water to lubricate the throat,
  • Avoiding screaming and yelling,
  • Warming up the voice before heavy use,
  • Avoiding smoking,
  • Using good breath support by filling the lungs before talking  or singing,
  • Using a microphone when giving a speech or presentation,
  • Paying attention to changes in the voice.