Helping Patients Recover From Voice Disorders

Each 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 for vocal disorders including voice overuse, chronic allergies, acid reflux andor cancer. Proper diagnosis of the disorder is crucial for proper treatment.

At CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat, we offer state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities including flexible fiber optic laryngoscopy and rigid videostroboscopy. Our physicians can help patients who suffer from:

  • Chronic hoarseness
  • Vocal fatigue
  • Chronic cough
  • Restriction of dynamic range
  • Chronic throat clearing
  • Weak or breathy voice

Types of Voice Disorders

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

  • Ulcers
  • Cysts
  • Hemorrhage
  • Laryngitis
  • Nodules
  • Polyps
  • Trauma

Neurogenic Disorders

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

  • Paralysis
  • Tremor
  • Spasmodic Dysphonia
  • Symptom of othera neurological disorders (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 for more than a month is one of the warning signs of cancer.

Treatment Protocols

There are’s a variety of treatments available depending on the patient’s specific condition. If the problem is due to inflammation, the first option is to try resting the voice. However many of the patients we see have a chronic problem that is not solved by rest or steroids. If a growth or bump on the vocal cords is detected using videostroboscopy, endoscopic surgery to delicately remove the growth is often the best course.

Voice therapy from a speech pathologist can also be beneficial for surgical and nonsurgical patients to improve vocal technique and prevent recurrence of their symptoms.