Voice disorders are conditions that affect the voice, resulting in abnormal pitch, volume, or quality of sound. Individuals with voice disorders may also experience hoarseness, shortness of breath, and tension in the neck muscles. Coughing and excessive throat clearing may occur, and vocal fatigue often sets in. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, you should seek medical attention.
What Causes Voice Disorders?
Injury to the vocal cords is one of the most common causes of voice disorders. This can happen anytime you use your voice inappropriately (which is easy to do; talking too much, excess throat clearing, shouting, and whispering all cause strain on your larynx). Smoking, sinus infections, acid reflux, viral conditions, allergies, cancer, and certain neurological conditions can all lead to vocal disorders.
Often the condition clears up without treatment once the illness has run its course. Care should be taken to protect the vocal cords, however, as continued abuse can result in nodules, polyps, cysts, vocal fold swelling, and laryngitis. Permanent damage can occur.
Treatment & Prevention
The key component in treating voice disorders is simple: rest your voice! Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids, and abstain from speech as much as possible (especially try to avoid yelling or whispering). If you’re suffering from acid reflux or a virus or bacterial infection, medications can help ease your symptoms. Lesions and growths on the vocal cords require a surgical solution.
To prevent voice disorders from occurring, learn to use your voice properly and eliminate vocal cord strain. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake – both can cause excess dryness in your throat. Using a humidifier can help, especially if you live in a dry climate.
Your doctor may recommend exercises for proper breathing and speech techniques, as well as muscle relaxation.