Our sweet voice is our greatest asset, we can attract many people with our speech. Our voice and speech are the main tools to share our opinions and ideas. We can easily express our feelings and emotions through our speech. Most of us do not take enough care about their voice and tend to neglect it all the time. If we experience a change in our voice due to cold or any other reasons, it is then we actually realize the importance of it.
Does anyone ever think about the fact about how we generate sounds and speech? Several organs in our body like lungs, larynx, vocal cords, nerves, tongue, teeth, palate, lips and nose all work together in order to produce speech. Vocal cords (vocal folds) are two folds of tissues protruding from the side walls of the airways. These folds also contain ligaments and are attached to the cartilages. We have Larynx (also called a voice box) in our neck area. While we breathe, our vocal cords remain apart and open a V shaped airway to the lungs. While we breathe, the pulses of air produce vibrations which we hear as sound. To this plain sound, our tongue, lips, teeth, palate, nose and sinuses add speech and meaning. Nerves in Larynx plays a crucial role in developing sounds and the muscles of the larynx move according to the signals of the brain. Honestly, our voice and speech are interlinked with many organs of our body and difficulties with any of these organs can directly impact our voice and speech quality.
Different conditions which cause voice disorders
Any changes in the shape or performance of Larynx can affect the voice and speech. Talking loudly or shouting or any injuries to the neck or many others can all adversely affect the Larynx. Being aware of conditions which can affect our Larynx is very important.
- Hoarseness– The main reason for this condition is the over usage of the vocal cords. While talking for longer hours or shouting loudly, the vocal cords rub to each other and lead to the formation of vocal nodules. Even a small one millimetre nodule can also affect your voice and speech. Teachers, singers, the politicians and the marketing staff are at the greater risk of developing these nodules as they need to talk more.
- Inflammation of the Larynx– Many small infections like Tonsillitis and others can cause inflammation of Larynx and lead to a hoarse voice. This is just temporary and if you do not talk too much for two or three days then the swelling gets controlled.
- Swelling of the Vocal cords– Swelling of the vocal cords mainly occurs due to the accumulation of fluids in the Reinke’s Edema. This condition is mostly seen in chain smokers.
- Development of polyps, cysts or tumors– Vocal cord polyps are the benign growths and these are associated with the over usage of vocal cords. Growth of water cysts or tumors can also affect speech.
- Damage to the nerves of Larynx– any damage to the nerves of the larynx can affect the functioning of vocal cord and lead to disturbances in speech. Undergoing any invasive procedures or injuries to the neck area can lead to this condition.
- Leukoplakia– This is a condition where white patches tend to develop inside the mouth. This can be an early sign of cancer. Development of white patches on Larynx can further affect your voice and in the long run if ignored can lead to cancer. People who smoke and consume excess alcohol are at an increased risk of developing these white patches.
- Functional Dysphonia– This is a multifaceted voice disorder caused due to shouting loudly and quarrelling. In this type of voice disorder, even if people talk in a normal way it looks as if they are whispering. Few people may even require voice therapy to bring their original tone.
- Cancers– Just like other organs, cancer also attacks the Larynx. This type of cancers can even affect the vocal cords and others. If people’s voice doesn’t come back normally within 2 to 3 weeks, then Larynx should be tested.
- Spasmodic Dysphonia– This is a condition where the muscles in the vocal folds which generates voice go spasm (experience sudden involuntary movement). This leads to breaks or interruptions in the voice.
- Puberphonia– Normally, adolescent male voice changes at the age of 14. If there is any problem in the voice during this age, it can be corrected through speech therapy.
Other Complications of Voice Disorders
People suffering from voice disorders, along with voice hoarseness may also face few other complications like
- Larynx pain
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Persistent cough
- Ear pain
Diagnosis of Voice Disorders
If you’re voice changes due to cold or other general conditions, then it comes back to normal within two to three weeks. If one still experiences any problems after this period then it needs to be tested. At first, experts will see how the neck and throat are and if they find any abnormalities in them then they will go for Flexible laryngoscopy. Under this, a thin and flexible viewing tube will be sent inside through our nose and check the vocal cords and Larynx. In this condition, Rigid Angled Endoscopy is also useful in determining the disorders present if any. Based on your condition experts may also prescribe Stroboscopy examination and chest X-Ray to determine tuberculosis, lung cancer or others present if any. In few people, these voice disorders also happen due to development of tumors in the ear or at the back of the nose. If the experts notice the presence of such tumors, then they will prescribe CT-Scan of neck and chest and even MRI in few cases.
Small tips to get relief from voice disorders
- Professors and teachers need to talk continuously due to their profession, especially the politician’s talk so much during the election period. This excess shouting and straining lead to voice disorders. For all these people, it is good to take some precautions. These people should give rest to their throat after giving lectures.
- It is advisable to drink at least 6-7 glasses of water per day. People who have a habit of clearing their throat frequently should stop doing it as it is not good for your voice.
- Politicians should always prefer to speak in the mike during meetings than shouting loudly. Make sure you do not speak in the crowded areas without a mike, as it puts extra pressure on your throat.
- Whispering is not good for your voice, as it puts extra pressure on your vocal cords.
- People suffering from voice disorders should avoid intake of Coffee, teas and alcohol. People should also quit smoking and being in the dusty and polluted environments.
- Allergic medications can adversely affect your Larynx, hence it is always suggested to use them if necessary.
Treatment for Voice Disorders
Few available treatment options of Voice Disorders are
- Voice Therapy
- Vocal Cord Medialization Thyroplasty
- Microlaryngeal Surgery
- Radiation Therapy
Giving rest to your throat is very important, one can control few types of voice disorders with resting. Just do not talk for too long for a few days. Steam is a good option for people suffering from infections, you can even add eucalyptus oil in hot water for better results. s