The larynx is an organ at the top of the neck that is critical for normal voice production, swallowing and breathing. Hoarseness or breathing difficulties typically characterize disorders of the larynx.
Symptoms of voice disorder
If your vocal quality, pitch or volume isn’t normal for your age, gender or cultural background, you may have a voice disorder. Symptoms are a voice that sounds:
- Unstable or quivering
- Rough, harsh or hoarse
- Strained or choppy
- Weak, whispery or breathy
- Too high or too low
- Significantly changed in pitch
- You may also experience:
- Pain in your throat when you speak
- Tired feeling in your larynx
- Feeling a lump in your throat when swallowing
- Pain when you touch the outside of your throat
If you experience symptoms of a voice disorder for more than two weeks, make an appointment with Golla ENT for an evaluation.
Causes of voice disorders
The possible causes of a voice disorder vary widely. Voice disorders can be caused by something as simple as viral laryngitis or as serious as cancer of the vocal folds. The most common causes are:
- Alcohol use
- Colds or upper respiratory infections
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Improper throat-clearing over a long time
- Neurological disorders
- Psychological stress
- Treating voice disorders
At Golla ENT, treatment begins with a thorough patient history and a general head and neck exam. A laryngologist and a voice therapist will also conduct a vocal capabilities assessment. We use laryngeal imaging with video stroboscopy to observe the appearance, movement and vibration of the vocal folds. This procedure only takes a few minutes, is performed with an endoscope, and is not painful. The treatment you are prescribed may include:
- Changes to lifestyle: Sometimes, simple changes to how you live and speak may make a difference. Reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can reduce or eliminate some symptoms. In addition, not yelling or speaking loudly and resting your voice regularly can provide relief if you speak or sing a lot. You may be given exercises to perform that relax the vocal cords and muscles around them.
- Speech therapy: Exercises and changes in speaking behaviors under the direction of a speech pathologist may help.
- Medications: If the voice disorder is caused by a condition that can be controlled with medication, the proper medication may be the answer. For example, antacids may stop gastric reflux or allergy medication may bring allergies that affecting your voice under control.
- Injections: If muscle spasms in the throat are the cause, they can be treated with an injection of botulinum toxin. Fat or other fillers can be injected into the vocal cords to help them close better.
- Surgery: Surgery may be used to treat vocal fold paralysis, a vocal fold polyp or a vocal fold scar. Most of these procedures can be performed in the office. If growths are caused by cancer, additional treatment, such as radiation therapy, may be needed.