A voice disorder affects your ability to speak normally. Your voice may be too soft or too loud. It could be breathy, raspy, or shaky. A voice disorder can even affect the pitch of your voice. Some disorders, such as laryngitis, are fairly common and easy to treat, while others may require more complex care and treatment from an ENT doctor as well as a speech pathologist. Here are some causes of voice disorders and how they might be treated.
Inflammation Or Irritation Of The Vocal Cords
When your vocal cords are inflamed due to an upper respiratory infection, your voice can become raspy. You might even lose your voice for a while. Bacterial and viral infections can cause irritation to your vocal cords, and so can overuse or abuse. Overuse can happen if you suddenly start talking for long periods of time, such as if you take a job lecturing all day and you're not used to public speaking. Prolonged shouting and screaming at a ballgame could also lead to irritation of your vocal cords that lead to a raspy voice.
In addition, chronic coughing due to smoking can cause inflammation and irritation that alters the pitch and quality of your voice. The solution for these problems is to rest your voice and your vocal cords so they have time to heal. Stop smoking, and treat infections. Staying hydrated is also important since your larynx and vocal cords are covered in mucous membranes that need to stay moist.
Medical Disorders Of The Larynx Or Vocal Cords
When you have a change in your voice that you can't attribute to a cold or overuse, your doctor may perform tests that allow him or her to see your vocal cords and larynx. There might be scars, lesions, polyps, or cysts that interfere with the functioning of your larynx or vocal cords. The treatment for these types of voice disorders depends on the cause.
For instance, surgery might be indicated to remove a growth or medication might be given to relieve acid reflux that leads to irritation and scarring of the vocal cords. Other problems might have a neurological cause, such as paralysis of a vocal cord. In this case, an implant that pushes your vocal cords closer together might improve the quality of your voice.
Improper Use Of Breathing And Muscle Control
Some voice disorders are caused by not controlling your breath or muscles that produce sound properly. This could be a habit you learned as a child or it can develop after a stroke or psychological trauma. A speech pathologist helps treat these disorders through different exercises that teach you how to control your mouth, tongue, and vocal cords when you speak. You may also need to strengthen your respiratory muscles so you can control airflow better as you make sounds. A speech pathologist has many training exercises to choose from so your particular need can be targeted. Regular sessions with a speech pathologist is often very beneficial after a stroke or other sudden loss of your ability to speak as your body learns to form sounds all over again.
If you've noticed a change in the quality or sound of your speech, be sure to let your doctor know. A voice disorder could also be an early warning sign of cancer, and you don't want to postpone medical treatment when it is necessary.