Voice Problems



Voice Problems General Questions
Answers to basic questions about voice disorders.

How's YOUR voice?

Answer ten simple questions and evaluate your own voice!

Types of voice disorders

Learn about Abductor Spasmodic Dysphonia, Webs, and everything in between! View diagrams and images and read easy-to-understand definitions.

Treatment options

At the Lions Voice Clinic we emphasize a team approach in evaluating and treating your voice problem. Find out more about the different options available to you, including speech therapy, medication, surgery, or a combination of these.

Voice Problems General Questions

Who gets voice problems?

Voice problems, or voice disorders, can occur in anyone and at any age. Voice disorders can develop quickly, for instance, following a surgery or loud screaming, or voice disorders can take months or years to fully develop. Voice problems are more likely to occur in persons who use their voice extensively or strenuously, but many individuals who develop voice disorders have minimal vocal demands. Individuals will often seek help for voice disorders when communication is impaired or pain is involved during speaking. The voice may also be considered disordered if the sound is abnormal or if the voice cannot do what an individual requires it to do.

Why do singers get voice disorders?

Singers, actors, teachers, politicians and other professional voice users are prone to developing voice disorders because of extensive and athletic use of the voice (for more about the definition of a professional voice user, please refer to our page on Professional Voice Users). These problems may be obvious, such as a complete loss of voice, or barely perceptible by anyone but the individual, such as loss of high notes in a singer. A voice problem in these individuals may be career threatening and needs to be evaluated by a voice care team with experience treating professional voice users.

What are the different types of voice disorders?

Basically, voice disorders may be organic, functional, or a combination of the two (see our page on Voice Disorders). Organic disorders involve something physically wrong with the mechanism. Functional means the physical structure is normal, but the mechanism is being used improperly or inefficiently. Sometimes an organic voice disorder, such as polyps or cysts (growths on the vocal folds) cause an individual to develop poor functional use of the voice. Other times, poor functional use, such as screaming or excessive throat clearing, can cause organic changes to occur, such as the development of nodules (a.k.a. "nodes").

The interaction between the organic and functional components of voice disorders is why it is so important to be treated by a team of voice specialists including at least an otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor) with special training in the voice and a certified speech language pathologist with specialized training in voice therapy.

How are voice disorders evaluated and treated?

Typically, patients are seen by an otolaryngologist who takes a thorough medical history and examines the individual's ear, nose, and throat for potential pathologic source or sources for the voice disorder. A speech pathologist will then evaluate how the patient uses their voice and what other factors might have caused or contributed to the voice disorder. Treatment options are then discussed and a treatment plan devised. Treatment may include one or more of the following options: functional voice therapy, medication, or surgery. To find a specialist on voice disorders in your area, please visit the National Voice Center Referral Database web site.


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Deirdre D. Michael - micha008@umn.edu
Date Last Modified: 1/12/12