You’ve probably had problems with your voice at one time or another, but when is it wise to have an evaluation? A night of screaming at a concert or talking too much can cause harmless voice problems from which you bounce back after a few days. 

But if you regularly notice issues with your voice, those problems may serve as a warning sign that you need to get checked out.

Here at Southern ENT Associates, our otolaryngologists diagnose and treat a wide range of vocal issues. You don’t have to sing professionally to notice when your voice is off. People develop voice problems for many reasons. Our doctors specialize in ear, nose and throat disorders and can perform a comprehensive evaluation to get to the root of your voice problems.

How vocal cords work

The vocal cords are two bands of tissue on either side of your voice box. Air passes through the cords from the lungs, and as it does, the cords vibrate to create the sound of your voice. 

Like other parts of your body, vocal cords can become infected, strained, inflamed, or develop small growths. These issues can affect the way your voice sounds. 

Voice disorder symptoms

Changes in your voice tone or pitch are warning signs that you may have a voice disorder. Other warning signs include the following:

  • Hoarseness
  • Weak or whispery voice
  • Breathiness
  • Straining to speak
  • Choppy sound
  • Quivering voice
  • Change to high pitch
  • Change to low pitch
  • Common voice disorders

Anything that affects the way your vocal cords work can cause problems with your voice. Some common issues that can affect your voice are:

  • Laryngitis
  • Vocal fold polyps
  • Vocal lesions
  • Vocal fold nodules
  • Spasmodic dysphonia (neurological voice disorder)

Risk factors for voice disorders

A number of factors can increase your risk of developing voice disorders. Some common risk factors include the following:

  • Allergies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Neurological disorders
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Overuse

How are voice disorders diagnosed?

If you notice a change in your voice that lasts for a few weeks, it’s a good idea to visit an otolaryngologist. When you visit Southern ENT Associates, we ask about your symptoms, and we use a variety of tests to examine your vocal cords and larynx (voice box). These tests may include the following:

  • Laryngoscopy to view your throat using either a light scope or a small mirror with a light shining on it
  • Laryngeal electromyography (EMG) to help diagnose nerve problems by measuring the electrical activity of your throat
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) visualize the structures of your throat
  • X-ray technology to produce cross-sectional images of the body’s tissues 

How are voice disorders treated?

We use a variety of approaches to treat voice disorders, depending on the underlying cause.  Treatment may involve the following: 

  • Medications
  • Speech therapy
  • Surgery
  • Injections
  • Lifestyle changes

You should never ignore voice problems, because they may signal an underlying problem. It’s wise to seek professional help if you notice changes in your voice that don’t go away within two or three weeks. 

For more information and evaluation for voice changes, reach out to our nearest office to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors. 

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