There’s nothing that can tug at a mum’s heartstrings like the sound of her child’s voice. And nothing more special than when you hear a loved one on the phone after a long period of time without them.
But sometimes our loved ones can sound a bit unusual or off-key. If you’re noticing a low or high pitch, a voice too loud or too nasal, or a harshness that doesn’t go away, these could be signs of a voice disorder.
Voice disorders are actually fairly common, and not necessarily something to worry about. In fact, they may even resolve on their own.
But sometimes having a different voice can have negative effects on a person socially and if left untreated, voice disorders and their accompanying difficulties can carry on into adulthood.
Let’s look a bit deeper at what voice disorders are, and what you can do about them.
A voice disorder (or dysphonia) is when voice quality, pitch, or loudness are inappropriate for a person’s age, gender, or cultural background.
Someone with a voice disorder might sound:
- Harsh, hoarse, raspy or croaky
- Pitched too high or too low
- As though talking is a strain
- Too loud or too quiet
- Like they have a blocked nose
- Wheezy or overly breathy
They might also be unable to speak at all for periods of time.
These symptoms can occur by themselves, or in combination with other symptoms. They might also come and go at random.
Our voice is created by vocal folds in our larynx (or ‘voice box’). Vocal folds are thin bands of muscle that vibrate to create sound used for speaking.
Most of us have experienced changes in our voice during a cold. You may have even lost it after cheering at a big football match, or shouting at a concert. That’s because the thin muscles that create sound have been strained or inflamed, causing problems with their normal vibration.
Vocal fold damage is usually caused by:
- Excessive talking or shouting loudly
- Lack of water and hydration
- Overuse – talking too much
- Using harsh ‘sound effects’ during play
- Straining our vocal folds and surrounding muscles
- Common infections such as a cold or laryngitis
Sometimes there are other structural or medical issues going on. Normal voice production needs a precise balance of vibration, airflow, and muscle strength.
Throat nodules or polyps, chronic upper airway inflammation, and acid reflux can all damage vocal folds and inhibit our ability to talk. Neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or muscular dystrophy can also impair speech.
Diagnosing a voice disorder involves assessment of pitch, loudness and respiratory support usually by a speech pathologist, GP and/or Ear Nose and Throat doctor.
If a voice disorder is suspected, a more comprehensive examination is needed. Your speech pathologist will work with your medical team to assess your head, neck, and throat for physical issues.
Voice therapy programs are designed to reduce symptoms of voice disorders by guiding changes in vocal behaviour. These programs may include:
- Vocal hygiene and hydration
- Breathing practices that promote larynx health
- Practicing resonance, pitch, and volume
- Awareness about voice use
- Reducing tension in the neck when talking or shouting
At SpeechEase, our team is trained to assess speech and provide therapy using a range of approaches, including the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) approach. This approach is specifically used to increase loudness and voice quality for people with progressive neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Systems Atrophy as well as children and adults with Down Syndrome.
Get in touch with us at SpeechEase to find out how we can help. Our therapists are trained in multiple treatment approaches, and we’re pretty lovely to work with too.
Getting in touch with us is easy – call us on 1300 773 273, or click here to organise an appointment. We’re looking forward to meeting you!