Recognising vocal nodules whilst they are in the early stages of development will help facilitate treatment and successful recovery.
Vocal nodules can present on the vocal folds when the voice is excessively strained over an extended period of time. Such as when yelling during an entire sporting event, when pushing the voice beyond its normal range or when trying to speak or sing at a higher pitch than normal.
When vocal nodules are present on the vocal folds (cords) the folds can strain to work harder to produce sound. The net effect is a worsening condition of vocal nodules.
Nodules are a common vocal disorder, which are generally treated successfully if detected early. However, if left untreated, vocal efforts will continue to worsen the problem and the vocal nodules can harden and become more difficult to treat and cure.
Recognising vocal nodules early
Vocal cord nodules are benign (non-cancerous) growths on both vocal cords that are caused by vocal abuse. Over time, repeated straining of the vocal cords results in soft, swollen spots on each vocal cord. These spots develop into harder, callous-like growths called nodules. The nodules will become larger and stiffer the longer the vocal abuse continues. So recognising vocal nodules early is important!
Cause of vocal nodules
A vocal cord nodule is a small mass of tissue that grows on the vocal folds. Typically nodules appear on the junction of the anterior 1/3 and posterior 2/3 of the vocal fold, where contact is most forceful.
A vocal nodule reduces or obstructs the ability of the vocal folds to create the rapid changes in pressure which generate human speech. Symptoms of nodules can include hoarseness, painful speech, frequent vocal breaks, and reduced vocal range. Vocal fold nodules develop more commonly in adult females and children.
Nodules appear as symmetrical swellings on both sides of the vocal cords. The cause nodules are usually strenuous or abusive voice practices such as yelling and coughing. Those who use their voice constantly in a loud environment are more susceptible.
Recognising vocal nodules early
Vocal nodules are not visible to the naked eye. This is because the larynx, which contains the vocal folds, is deeper into the throat than can be seen without an endoscope. With an endoscope, an otolaryngologist can easily see vocal nodules for an accurate diagnosis.
Once the diagnosis of vocal nodules is made, appropriate treatment can be recommended. The severity may also be determined by the hoarse.
Husky, scratchy and strained sounds may be apparent in the voice. However, these symptoms may also be due to other underlying disorders. If, after a few days voice rest, the symptoms continue, a visit to an otolaryngologist should be arranged.
Treatment for vocal nodules
If symptoms develop, avoiding or ceasing activities that aggravate or bring them about is recommended. Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water, with a minimum recommended daily consumption of six to eight glasses of at least 200mLs.
Avoid smoking, this is always good to protect the voice, but particularly during treatment for vocal nodules. Smoking ought to be ceased. Maintain a balanced diet with daily consumption of fluids, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables is also particularly helpful for sustaining the voice is in good health.
Proper care of the voice will assure its performance for a lifetime. If vocal nodules occur, prompt treatment by an otolaryngologist and speech pathologist should resolve the issue and prevent it from becoming a more serious condition.
Hoarseness or breathiness that lasts for more than two weeks may signal a voice disorder and should be followed up with an otolaryngologist.
Treatment of vocal nodules includes voice rehabilitation. This can include vocal training, speech therapy, and voice rest. Occasionally surgery may be needed. Removal of vocal cord nodules is a relatively safe and very effective procedure.
Phonosurgery or voice surgery involves carefully removing the vocal nodules from the vocal cord. At the same time preserving the normal portions of the vocal cord next to the lesion. The goal of phonosurgery is to save and restore the natural vibrations of the vocal cords.
Singers or professional voice users should take serious consideration before having surgery. Surgery for nodules should improve the voice. Sometimes the ability to sustain notes is affected and the vocal range is altered.
Results focused speech therapy for voice
ENT Clinic have created comprehensive speech pathology resources, that together with our speech pathologists consultation, can be used to create a customised treatment plan. This will ensure that you will experience results focused, effective speech therapy. If you have concerns about vocal nodules or require speech therapy contact us today.