A voice disorder is any deviation in pitch, intensity, resonance or quality that renders a person’s voice “abnormal” to the listener. It may be secondary to a number of underlying causes including overuse, neurologic disorders, trauma, surgery, cancer, viral and bacterial conditions and psychological difficulties.
Common causes of voice disorders include vocal fold nodules, vocal fold polyps, vocal fold cysts, muscle tension dysphonia, vocal fold paralysis, reflux laryngitis, Reinke’s edema, spasmodic dysphonia, paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM), vocal fold bowing and vocal fold atrophy.
Signs and Symptoms of a Voice Disorder May Include
- Volume that is too loud or too soft
- Pitch that is too high or low for age
- Changes in pitch
- Voice breaks
- Loss of voice
- Vocal fatigue when speaking
- Running out of breath at the ends of sentences
- Persistent throat clearing or coughing
- Sore throat
- Acid taste in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Tension in the neck and jaw
Treatment for Voice Disorders
Voice disorder treatment may include medication, surgery, voice therapy or a combination of these. The goal of voice therapy is to learn new/better patterns of voice production and to eliminate poor vocal habits. Components of a voice therapy program often include:
- Vocal hygiene (ensuring proper hydration, reducing or eliminating caffeine, managing reflux)
- Identifying and eliminating vocal misuse
- Learning appropriate breathing patterns
- Relaxation of the head and neck muscles
- Vocal relaxation
- Vocal exercises to balance and strengthen the vocal folds
Programs including Lessac-Madsen Resonant Voice Therapy (LMRVT) and Casper-Stone Confidential Flow Therapy (CSCFT) are 2 voice therapy programs that are geared towards both preventing and reversing vocal fold injury. The ultimate goal of voice therapy is to have the client achieve his or her best voice following injury or surgery.