Voice and Larynx Disorders

Your voice plays a vital role both in communicating with and understanding other people. Human voice production is made possible by the voice box, the medical term of which is the larynx. It’s an area of your throat in the front of your neck and holds your vocal cords, which vibrate and produce sound. Any condition that either partially or completely impairs the larynx can lead to voice and throat disorders, that can affect how you talk and swallow.

Treatment depends on the cause of your voice and throat disorder. Dr Stephen Kleid, a specialist in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) disorders, provides various procedures tailored to your diagnosis.

Keep reading to find out if your symptoms are signs of voice and larynx disorders and what treatment options Dr Kleid offers in his ENT clinic in Melbourne, Australia.

What are Voice and Larynx Disorders?

Voice and larynx disorders are a large category of conditions that affect your ability to speak. These various disorders also affect how you perform necessary daily activities like eating and drinking.

Research suggests that frequent and prolonged abnormal vocal function can lead to pathological damage to your larynx. In other words, complications can arise if your voice and throat problems are left untreated.

Although anyone can develop a voice disorder, they are more likely to cause occupational impairment for jobs that involve communication, such as with singers, teachers, or news anchors.

The most common voice and throat disorders are rarely life-threatening, however permanent damage caused by these disorders can lead to major lifestyle changes.

Types of Voice and Throat Problems

Different voice and throat or larynx disorders can affect your vocal quality. These can develop because of anatomical and neurologic factors, as well as inappropriate use of your vocal mechanism.

Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal or throat cancers begin in the squamous cells covering the inside of your larynx (either the voice box or lower throat).

Cancerous cells grow uncontrollably in the larynx, which in turn can cause a sore throat and pain, as well as, difficulty breathing or swallowing. If not treated immediately, cancer can spread.

Furthermore, smoking and drinking alcohol put you at a higher risk of developing laryngeal cancer. When discovery occurs early, laryngeal cancer has a high chance of being treatable.

Laryngitis

Infections and voice overuse can cause inflammation of both the larynx and the vocal cords within. Normally, your vocal cords open and close smoothly to create vibrations responsible for forming sound. Swollen vocal cords distort the sound, resulting in a hoarse voice.

Laryngitis can either be acute, short-term, or chronic, long-term, laryngitis. Furthermore, if left untreated hoarseness can often lead to a more serious condition.

Vocal Cord Polyps

These polyps are a result of either vocal overuse or post-traumatic injury. You develop non-cancerous nodules or “polyps” on your vocal cords.

The polyps are inflammatory and can cause hoarseness, loss of vocal range, and loss of voice. This is common in occupations that cause excess laryngeal muscle tension, for example in singers or radio personalities.

Spasmodic Dysphonia

Dysphonia is a term meaning disorder of the voice. Spasmodic dysphonia is a rare, neurological condition that affects the nerves that supply the laryngeal muscles. Most cases are thought to be caused by central nervous system disorders.

It causes involuntary muscle spasms that cause your voice to sound either weak, strained, or strangled. Furthermore, the spasms can be strong enough wherein your vocal cords can’t open.

Vocal Cord Paralysis

When your two vocal folds don’t move or open properly, it can be due to paralysis or reduced movement ability. That is also called Hypomobility. Hypomobility can result from other problems involving the nerves, muscles, or joints.

Vocal cord paralysis can affect your speech and produce persistent coughing, it can also cause, shortness of breath. 

Laryngeal Stenosis

This is characterised by the narrowing of your airways and windpipes caused by either scarring or paralysis of the vocal cords. Laryngeal stenosis can be congenital (from birth) or acquired. Acquired laryngeal stenosis is most commonly a result of either an infection or trauma to the larynx.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

LPR has other more common names, including heartburn, acid reflux disease, or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The acid contents of your stomach travel upward toward the throat and irritate your larynx and vocal cords.

It’s usually associated with a burning sensation in your chest which can occur after either eating, stretching, lying down, or exercising. The good news is that symptoms are temporary and can be usually handled with lifestyle changes.

Vocal Cord Haemorrhage

The physical stress of screaming too much or speaking too loud for a prolonged time unnecessarily strains your vocal cords. It can cause the blood vessels in your vocal cords to rupture.

Even though it’s not life-threatening, it can interfere with the normal function of your vocal cords. You can also develop aphonia or loss of voice.

Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM)

PVFM is characterised by the improper movement of the vocal folds. This leads to abnormality of the vocal cords’ function and is caused by various conditions, including viral infection, thyroid gland surgery, chest surgery, as well as, prolonged or incorrect use of breathing tubes, to name a few.

Laryngeal Papillomatosis

Laryngeal papillomatosis is a long-lasting viral infection of the voice box and throat that causes small nodules to grow. The benign tumour can grow inside either your throat, voice box, vocal cords or in the respiratory tract from your nose to your lungs and can cause various symptoms.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes this disorder. A cure has yet to be found, but currently, the standard procedure is the surgical removal of the papilloma.

Why Choose Dr Kleid for Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery?

Dr Stephen Kleid
Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon (Otolaryngologist)

Masada Medical Centre
26 Balaclava Road,
East St Kilda, Victoria

Dr Stephen Kleid is an experienced Ear, Nose and Throat ENT Surgeon (Otolaryngologist) based in St Kilda.

Dr Kleid’s Procedures

What are the Symptoms of Voice and Larynx Disorders?

The symptoms of voice and throat disorders depend on the cause of the diseases and how severe it is. These symptoms are prevalent voice disorders in teachers, lawyers, professional voice personalities, and other jobs that require extensive use of their vocal function.

Most of the vocal symptoms affect the quality of your voice:

  • Pitch change
  • Weak sound
  • Strained or choppy sounds
  • Raspy, hoarse sounds
  • Too high or too low sounds
  • Whispering sounds
  • Unstable or quivering sounds
  • Breathy sounds

Other symptoms not relating to voice quality include:

  • Tension or pain while speaking
  • Lump in the neck
  • Lump in the throat while swallowing
  • Discomfort when you speak
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Persistent cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath when singing, exercising, or talking
  • Pain when speaking or swallowing
  • Aphonia, partial or complete loss of voice
  • Weak voice

When Do I See A Doctor?

If you face any of the symptoms and suspect a cold or the flu is not the cause, we urge you to consult an ENT specialist, such as Dr Stephen Kleid, to figure out your next course of action.

Causes of Voice and Larynx Disorders

In order to speak correctly, the vocal cords in your throat need to be touching each other smoothly in your larynx. Anything that affects this can affect your voice and cause a voice and throat disorder.

  • Growth
    • Growths are tissues that develop on the surface of your vocal cords and cause them to function abnormally.
    • These growths are not always cancerous.
    • They can result from viral infections, illnesses, injuries, or overuse of your voice.
    • Some types of growth include lesions, cysts, bumps, and polyps.
  • Hormones
    • Conditions affecting the thyroid hormones, male and female hormones, and growth hormones can cause voice and throat disorders.
    • These hormones influence the normal changes you experience in your voice throughout life.
  • Nerve problems
    • Injuries from surgeries or long-term inflammations of the throat can result in nerve problems.
    • This eventually leads to throat disorders, like paralysis and hypomobility of the vocal cords.
  • Misuse and Overuse of your voice
    • Stress from either overuse or misuse of your voice is the most common cause of vocal and throat disorders.
    • The stress and tension cause impaired vocal functions.
  • Inflammation
    • This occurs when you are exposed to heavy chemicals, smoke or abuse alcohol.
    • We also see it in respiratory infections or when you misuse your voice.

What are the Complications of Voice and Larynx Disorders?

Prolonged and untreated symptoms can result in deadlier complications or more permanent damage:

  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Permanent loss of voice
  • Progressive nerve damage
  • Metastatic throat cancer

Treating voice and throat disorders helps to restore your normal vocal mechanism. It may take some time, but treatment is the key to avoiding long-term complications.

Risk Factors of Voice and Larynx Disorders

Rather than develop speech difficulties, consider prevention and intervention to avoid these risk factors of vocal disorders:

  • Voice misuse or overuse
  • Alcohol
  • Thyroid gland problem
  • Throat Cancer
  • Neurological disorders
  • Psychological disorders
  • Allergies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Cold
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Scars from surgeries
  • Neck trauma
  • Screaming
  • Smoking

How are Voice and Larynx Disorders Diagnosed?

Some signs of voice disorders are common in illnesses, like the flu, making it difficult to know whether you have a voice or throat problem. Notice any unusual changes in your voice or pain in your throat? Come and get yourself thoroughly checked by Dr Kleid.

To evaluate and diagnose voice and throat disorder, Dr Kleid will order one or more of the following:

  • Imaging tests: Dr Kleid uses CT scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or X-rays, to see the inside of your throat and check for any abnormalities.
  • Biopsies: He may request a tissue sample be removed to be examined for signs of cancer.
  • Laryngeal Electromyography (EMG): This makes use of tiny needles called electrodes. We connect these to a computer system to check the electrical activity of your throat muscles. Dr Kleid uses this to check if the nerves in your throat are damaged.
  • Laryngoscopy: He can use a specific device called a laryngoscope to view the inside of your larynx, including the vocal cords and nearby structures.
  • Videostroboscopy: Dr Kleid can perform endoscopy with a video recorder to examine the vibrations of your vocal cords during speech. It evaluates the function and health of your vocal cords.

What are the Treatments for Voice and Larynx Disorders?

Voice and throat problems are rarely life-threatening but, when left untreated for too long, your symptoms can grow into something more serious.

Surgery

Dr Kleid usually performs surgery for voice and larynx disorders when your voice box loses its function, such as vocal fold paralysis, vocal fold polyps, and scarring of the vocal folds.

  • Thyroplasty
    • To access your vocal cords, Dr Kleid creates an opening in the neck and opens the cartilage of your larynx. He inserts an implant through the hole to move the vocal cords into position. The implant brings the two vocal cords closer, making speech possible and less demanding.
  • Laryngeal Reinnervation
    • In patients with laryngeal nerve paralysis, Dr Kleid can surgically replace a damaged nerve in your throat or voice box. He takes a healthy nerve, the ansa cervicalis nerve, from your neck to reinnervate the recurrent laryngeal nerve and relieve the symptoms of vocal fold paralysis.
  • Lesions removal
    • This procedure is used to remove non-cancerous, precancerous, and cancerous vocal fold lesions causing voice problems. Potassium Titanyl Phosphate (KTP) laser surgery is the latest laser treatment that allows Dr Kleid to remove vocal cord lesions while preserving the surrounding tissue.

A multidisciplinary approach with the help of an otolaryngologist or ENT surgeon, such as Dr Stephen Kleid, and a speech-language pathologist may be the best course of action to develop a medical treatment plan.

Medication

Prescribing medication for voice and throat problems depends on the cause of your disorder. Dr Kleid can prescribe medication to treat inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux, or prevent the regrowth of certain tumours.

Injections

For disorders that induce tremors in your throat muscles, Dr Kleid can treat them by injecting Botox into the skin of your neck. Botox injections can reduce both irregular movement and muscle spasms in disorders like spasmodic dysphonia.

Speech Therapy

Early identification and diagnosis of a problem are the key to successful treatment. Often, voice therapy is the primary treatment of voice disorders. Even vocal nodules can be treated with the help of a speech pathologist if diagnosed early.

Lifestyle changes are important in both the prevention and treatment of voice disorders. Simply avoid screaming, tobacco, and alcohol. Rest your voice as much as you can.

How is the Recovery after Surgery?

After treatment or surgery, you may not be able to talk immediately. There is a chance you could lose your voice or gain it back after some days or weeks.

You may need the help of a speech therapist, speech-language pathologist, or physical therapist to both improve your vocal cord functions and also strengthen them.

Outcome

Voice and larynx disorders are not as simple as a cough or a break in your voice. They can be demanding, especially if your job relies on your vocal abilities.

So it’s important to seek medical help when you develop suspicious symptoms. Rest when you should, and drink lots of water. Furthermore, before you engage in voice-demanding tasks, try vocal warm-ups or throat clearing.

When there are any changes in the quality of your voice or any concerning symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact Dr Kleid. His experience as a skilled ENT surgeon makes him the best choice for expert care in Melbourne, Australia.

FAQs

What are voice disorders?

These are disorders that affect the pitch, tone and overall quality of your voice and your throat condition.

Who develops voice disorders?

Anyone, regardless of age or sex, can develop voice disorders. They are common disorders among teachers and singers as well as, other professionals that use their voices constantly.

What causes a voice disorder?

Growth of abnormal tissue in your vocal cords, hormonal problems, nerve damage, inflammation and swelling as well as, misuse or overuse of your voice.

How are voice disorders diagnosed?

Dr Kleid diagnoses voice and throat disorders from your medical history, symptoms, and physical examinations.

How are voice disorders treated?

The treatment of voice and throat disorders depends on the cause of the condition. It ranges from lifestyle changes and speech therapy to surgical treatment or other methods.

How do I know I have an unhealthy voice?

You know you have an unhealthy voice when your voice is hoarse, and can’t hit a particular pitch.

If I have a hoarse voice, should I see a doctor?

Yes. Especially when you have symptoms that persist for long periods. If your voice disorder is not yet serious, Dr Kleid may recommend you consult a speech pathologist.

What are the different types of voice disorders?

The different types of voice disorders include laryngitis, spasmodic dysphonia, vocal cord paralysis, laryngeal cancer, and others.

Sources

The Risk Factors Related to Voice Disorder in Teachers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Prevalence of Voice Disorders in Singers: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Voice disorders in teachers. A review

Functional Voice Disorders – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf

Hoarseness—Causes and Treatments – NCBI

Voice disorders – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Acute Laryngitis: Practice Essentials, Pathophysiology

Functional Voice Disorders: Overview, Evaluation, Etiology


Why Choose Dr Kleid for Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery?

Dr Stephen Kleid
Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon (Otolaryngologist)

Masada Medical Centre
26 Balaclava Road,
East St Kilda, Victoria

Dr Stephen Kleid is an experienced Ear, Nose and Throat ENT Surgeon (Otolaryngologist) based in St Kilda.

Dr Kleid’s Procedures

How can we help?

Dr Kleid’s Team takes pleasure in assisting you with any questions when considering ENT surgery. Please call the Masada in Melbourne between 9 am – 5 pm on Weekdays.

Phone Masada Hospital 03 9038 1630 or Email Dr Kleid