A person's voice is an important part of their identity and changes to the voice can be distressing. An altered voice can make communication hard, reduce quality of life and cause social and work problems.
Your voice is like a finely tuned wind instrument. The co-ordination and control required to produce a voice and to speak is really very sophisticated. You need good working lungs to generate a flow of air, the voice box needs to demonstrate fine control to create a sound and this sound needs to be modified by the muscles of the mouth and throat in order to create speech.
As you can imagine, in such a complicated system, minor things can sometimes go wrong and have major effects.
There are many reasons a person can have voice problems and these problems can occur at any level of the vocal system.
Some of the more common causes of voice problems include:
- Vocal cord nodules, polyps and irregularities.
- Benign and malignant tumours.
- Voice overuse and misuse.
- Muscle wasting disorders.
- Lung disease.
- Thyroid problems.
Changes to voice can be sudden in their onset in which case it is usually quite obvious. Slower changes over time are more insidious and may be less noticeable, especially to the patient and their frequent contacts.
People with voice problems can complain of the some or all of the following symptoms:
- Loss of voice or vocal fatigue.
- Reduced power or projection.
- Croaky or hoarse voice.
Of concern is the presence of any of the following:
- Coughing up blood.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Neck lumps or masses.
- Increasing shortness of breath.
- Ear or neck pain.
The key to determining the cause of a voice problem is a thorough discussion with your doctor and a comprehensive physical examination. Dr Morrissey will often be able to directly look at the vocal cords via a fine nasal camera in order to identify the problems and hopefully ‘rule out’ some serious issues.
In some cases, there may be a need to undergo special scans and other tests to determine the cause. A Speech Therapist may also become involved, as they possess unique skills in the assessment and management of vocal problems.
The particular remedy depends of course on the problem. It can involve medications, surgery and/or the advice of a Speech Therapist.
Dr Morrissey can help to advise you as to the best course of action needed to remedy your particular voice problem.