Every sound you make is created when air is pushed through your larynx, or voicebox, vibrating the vocal cords housed within. When there’s an issue that affects the vibration of your vocal cords, it can lead to a voice disorder.
To help you recognize if you or your child might have a voice disorder, the team of speech specialists here at Celebrations Speech Group wants to focus on some of the more common signs.
Voice disorders — a complex and common issue
There are many definitions of a voice disorder, but we prefer to keep it as simple as possible — an issue with your voice’s quality, pitch, or volume.
Among children, the prevalence of voice disorders ranges from 1.4%-6%, while 1 in 13 adults will experience a voice disorder each year. Voice disorders are common because they include many issues, from yelling too much at a concert and experiencing hoarseness the following day to paralyzing the vocal cords due to a stroke.
As speech therapists, we often break down voice disorders into three types:
- Organic — structural or neurological issues that affect your lungs, larynx, and/or vocal cords
- Functional — the structures are normal, but you’re experiencing issues using them
- Psychogenic — voice problems that arise due to mental health issues like trauma
The most common type of voice disorder is functional and occurs among those who use their vocal cords a good deal, such as singers or teachers. In fact, one study found that 57% of teachers have a voice disorder.
Signs of a voice disorder
Despite the wide range of issues that can lead to a voice disorder, there are some commonalities in the end results. The most common signs of a voice disorder include:
- A hoarse or raspy voice
- A weak voice
- Breathy or whispery voice
- Trembling voice
- Speaking too softly or too loudly
- High or low pitch
- Gaps or breaks in the sounds you make
While these are signs that you notice in the sounds your voice makes, people with voice disorders can feel symptoms, such as soreness in your throat when you speak. You may also feel fatigue in your throat when you talk, and you have to expend more energy to get the words out. While we use the words “soreness” and “fatigue,”people often describe it as tension in the larynx.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar and you can’t trace them back to a temporary problem, such as laryngitis that comes from a viral infection or hoarseness from overuse, it may be time to seek our help.
For expert diagnosis and treatment of voice disorders in both children and adults, please contact one of our offices in Brentwood, Stockton, or Elk Grove, California, to schedule a consultation.