Voice Disorders

Voice DisordersThere are various vocal disorders that can cause hoarse voice or absence of sound. They can result from various conditions, including colds, irritants, excessive screaming, allergies, bronchitis, and more. Voice disorders include vocal cord nodules, vocal cord paralysis, spasmodic dysphonia, and paradoxical vocal fold movement.


Vocal cord nodules are noncancerous growths found on the vocal cords as a result of excessive use. They consist of swollen spots that become larger as vocal use continues. Nodules cause symptoms that include hoarseness, excessive breathing, “scratchy” voice, neck pain, decreased pitch, voice fatigue, and ear pain. They can be treated through behavioral treatment programs or surgical means.


Vocal cord paralysis occurs when the vocal cords are unable to move during speech. This produces voice problems as well as difficulties in breathing and swallowing. Both vocal cords can be stuck in a paramedian position, resulting in breathing issues. There are cases where only one side is paralyzed, which prevents the ability to speak clearly or loudly. A tracheotomy may be required in order to restore normal eating patterns. Voice therapy can be performed to improve pitch, breath support, and vocal strength.


Paradoxical vocal fold movement is a disorder that causes the vocal cords to close when they need to be open. It leads to symptoms such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, and potential hospitalization. Speech language pathologists can diagnose PVFM by evaluating episodes, medical history, or voice examination. ISLP provides vocal exercises, relaxation, and breath support to improve speech functions. A medical treatment may be required to resolve physical causes of the disorder.


When a voice disorder becomes chronic, it is referred to as spasmodic dysphonia. The vocal cords are strained and result in a hoarse or tight voice. There are periods when no sound is produced at all. Symptoms can be introduced as mild, but may worsen with time. Spasmodic dysphonia has no permanent cure, but can be treated to improve the voice. ISLP provides therapy sessions to strengthen voice production. Vocational counseling will also be applied to cope with any effects on the individual’s occupation.