A voice disorder occurs when a condition results in abnormal pitch, volume, or quality of sound produced by the larynx, or voice box. Similar symptoms occur in a wide range of voice disorders, making diagnosis tricky.
Symptoms Of Voice Disorders
Disorders can affect your voice in a number of ways. Symptoms may include hoarseness; a breathy, raspy, harsh, or weak voice; a decreased range in pitch, volume, and projection; shortness of breath; vocal fatigue, especially as the day wears on; coughing; chronic throat clearing; and loss of voice. If symptoms persist beyond two weeks, seek the advice of a doctor.
Most voice disorders are caused by conditions that are easily treatable and don’t pose a serious health risk. Vocal cord abuse is one of the most common (and preventable) problems, accounting for approximately half of all voice disorders. It is the result of using your voice inappropriately (e.g. shouting or speaking loudly, whispering, throat clearing, and other activities that strain your vocal cords). Continued misuse of the voice can lead to laryngitis, nodules, polyps, cysts, and vocal fold swelling, and may cause permanent damage.
Other voice disorders can be caused by allergies, sinus infections, neurological disorders, tobacco smoke, hormonal conditions, acid reflux, tumors, and surgeries.
Most voice disorders are caused by conditions that are easily treatable and don’t pose a serious health risk.
Voice Disorders Prevention
Preventing voice disorders focuses on using your voice properly. Avoid the types of vocal cord strain mentioned above, and keep your vocal folds moist by drinking plenty of water when speaking. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dry out your throat. Try humidifying the air. When addressing large crowds, use amplification devices (e.g. microphones).
Treatments Of Voice Disorders
Treatment for voice disorders involves a double-edged approach that utilizes both medical treatment (targeted at the underlying condition) and voice therapy. If suffering from vocal abuse, resting your voice is key to a speedy recovery. Be sure to stay hydrated with lots of liquids. Medications may be prescribed to treat acid reflux and reduce inflammation caused by allergies or viruses. Surgery may be needed to remove lesions and growths from the vocal cords. Exercises that teach proper breathing and speech techniques and muscle relaxation are often extremely helpful.