What is voice?
Voice (or vocalisation) is the sound produced when air travels from the lungs and through the vocal folds in the larynx, or voice box. The vocal folds are of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally across the larynx. As air passes from the lungs, through the windpipe, it causes the vocal folds to vibrate, generating voice. The human voice conveys information about the speaker through features such as: pitch, loudness, resonance, quality and flexibility.
Most people will occasionally experience a change in their voice at some point in their life. This may be due to something as simple as cheering or shouting at a sporting event or music concert. Alternatively, voice changes may occur as a result of a cold or sore throat. These voice changes are usually temporary and resolve with vocal rest and improvement in overall health.
Dysphonia is the term given for disorders of the voice. It is impairment in the ability to produce sounds using the vocal mechanism. There are many causes of voice disorders.
These are outlined below:
Behaviours that can lead to voice problems – Phonotraumatic
- Excessive use of voice which may be exacerbated when underlying poor health (i.e. infections/virus)
- Constantly using a voice that is not within usual vocal range or ‘putting on a character voice’. Batman vs. Bruce Wayne
- Any behaviour which strains the vocal mechanism – “Phonotraumatic”.
- This may include: yelling, screaming, shouting or singing loudly
Other causes include:
- Aging: Changes occur to the voice as we age
- Neurological disorders: Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease
- Injuries: Smoking, passive smoking, drinking (excessive alcohol and/or caffeine), drug use, surgical.
- Functional factors: Increase muscle tension, posture
- Psychological/Personal factors: Stress, anxiety, depression
- Infections/Disease: Often head and neck related illnesses such as laryngitis, tonsillitis, head cold, pneumonia, H&N cancer.
- Medications: Lead to dry mouth and changes to mood/emotion/stress
When should you seek help?
Speech Pathologists are trained professionals that work in conjunction with ENT specialists to assess and provide voice therapy for children and adults. A person should seek the advice of a Speech Pathologist if any of the following symptoms extends beyond two weeks:
- Rough, hoarse or raspy voice
- Breathy or husky voice
- Reduced vocal volume
- Changes to voice pitch
- Pain or discomfort in the throat
- A tight ‘choking’ sensation when using voice
- A feeling of a ‘lump’ in the throat
- Increase fatigue and effort associated with increased voice use
If you have any concerns about you or your child’s voice, please contact us at ENT Clinic Randwick on 1300 123 368.