Raising Voices: Helping Patients Recover From Voice Disorders

02Each year millions of people are affected by voice disorders. For those who rely on their voice to make a living, such as teachers, doctors, actors, singers, and public speakers, problems like chronic hoarseness and vocal fatigue can be devastating. There are many causes of vocal disorders and the underlying etiology is often multifactorial. Vocal overuse, acid reflux, tobacco use, and chronic allergies are a few of the many potential causes of vocal dysfunction. In addition, any patient with persistent hoarseness should be evaluated to rule out laryngeal cancer. Proper diagnosis of the disorder is crucial for appropriate treatment.

Our physicians can help patients who suffer from:

  • Chronic hoarseness
  • Vocal fatigue
  • Chronic cough
  • Restriction of dynamic range

Types of Voice Disorders

Voice disorders fall into a few main categories: structural, neurogenic, functional and psychogenic.

Often, a patient’s disorder may fit more than one category and the challenge lies in determining the primary cause.

Structural Disorders

With structural disorders there is a problem involving the tissue or fluids of the vocal cords. Examples include:

  • Contact Ulcers
  • Papilloma
  • Cysts
  • Nodules
  • Hemorrhage
  • Polyps
  • Laryngitis
  • Trauma
  • Granuloma
  • Leukopolakia

Neurogenic Disorders

Neurogenic disorders are related to problems with the nervous system, including:

  • Paralysis/Paresis
  • Tremor
  • Spasmodic Dysphonia
  • Symptom of a neurological disorder (ALS or Parkinson’s)

Functional Disorders

With functional disorders, the physical structure is normal but there is muscle tension due to improper use or strain. Examples include:

  • Muscle tension dysphonia
  • Anterior/posterior constriction
  • Pharyngeal constriction

Psychogenic Disorders

It is rare for a psychological disorder to be the sole cause for a voice problem, but a psychogenic component is often present because of the emotional impact a voice disorder can have.

Throat Cancer

Cancer of the larynx or any part of the throat is not considered a voice disorder. However, unexplained hoarseness is one of the warning signs of cancer.

Treatment Protocols

“There are a variety of treatment options available depending on the patient’s specific condition. In many cases, treatment of underlying causes of laryngeal inflammation such as acid reflux and postnasal drainage are initiated. In patients who do not respond to conservative management microscopic vocal cord surgery can be performed to address structural lesions of the vocal cords. Voice therapy with a speech pathologist is also an important part of the treatment protocol for both surgical and nonsurgical patients to improve vocal technique and prevent recurrence of their symptoms.”

What treatment options are available for voice disorders?

There are a variety of treatment options available depending on the patient’s specific condition. In many cases, treatment of underlying causes of laryngeal inflammation such as acid reflux and postnasal drainage are initiated. In patients who do not respond to conservative management microscopic vocal cord surgery can be performed to address structural lesions of the vocal cords. Voice therapy with a speech pathologist is also an important part of the treatment protocol for both surgical and nonsurgical patients to improve vocal technique and prevent recurrence of their symptoms.

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