Everything you need to know about voice disorders
Voice disorders affect the ability to speak normally. In this blog we cover everything you need to know about voice disorders. From how the voice is produced to symptoms to look out for and how to treat.
How is the voice produced?
The production of voice is a result of the vibration of vocal folds, which are located in the
larynx. When the air from the lungs passes through the vocal folds, it leads to the vibration of
the mucosa, which is the superficial layer of the vocal folds. As the mucosa vibrates, the
vocal folds are brought closer together, which then creates the voice. The vocal folds are
flexible muscle tissue and stretch according to the vocal pitch. Like the strings of a guitar, the
more stretched the vocal folds are, the higher the pitch will be.
Dysphonia can be caused by phonation problems such as voice roughness, excessive breathiness, tension and instability in voice quality. Other symptoms might also include inadequate loudness and pitch.
Dysphonia occurs when the vocal folds do not function properly due to inflammation, vocal
nodules or other types of lesion, paralyzation and secondary to neurological disorders.
There are two main types of voice disorders:
Resulting from inappropriate use of laryngeal muscles which
negatively affect voice quality when there are no physical/structural alterations in the larynx. The symptoms of this type of voice disorder can be vocal fatigue, muscle
tension dysphonia, aphonia (when the voice cannot be produced), among others.
● Organic dysphonia
Caused by physiological and anatomical alterations in the
larynx and/or respiratory mechanism. They can be structural, which occur when
physical laryngeal changes impact the voice functioning (e.g. vocal nodules, edema),
or neurogenic, which are derived from nervous system problems.
People who professionally use the voice, for example teachers of singers, can have voice
disorders when they overuse the voice by speaking/singing loudly for prolonged periods of
time. Voice disorders can also occur in children, causing voice hoarseness, breathiness and
low vocal pitch for their age.
Assessment and treatment of voice disorders
It is fundamental to have a medical assessment with an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to
examine the larynx and its functioning. After medical diagnosis, treatment may include
medical and/or speech therapy interventions.
The speech therapist conducts a perceptual evaluation of the vocal quality and exercises to
improve the vocal quality. Changing vocal habits and life habits, such as water intake and
diet, frequently play an essential role in order for the vocal quality to improve. Therefore, is it
also part of the scope of the speech therapy intervention to educate and provide counseling
on all aspects that impact the vocal health