Voice and Swallowing

About

Voice disorders are medical conditions affecting the production of speech. Vocal cords, located in the larynx (voice box), produce the sound of your voice by vibrating as air passes through the cords from the lungs. The sound the vocal cords produce is then sent through the throat, nose, and mouth, giving the sound “resonance.” The sound of each individual voice is determined by the size and shape of the vocal cords and the size and shape of the throat, nose, and mouth (the resonating cavities).

Click on Chronic Laryngitis, Swallowing Disorders, (Dysphagia), or Vocal Cord Paralysis on the menu below to start the video.


Dysphagia is the medical term for the symptom of difficulty in swallowing. It can also be a condition in its own right. People with dysphagia have difficulty swallowing and may also experience pain while swallowing. Some people may be completely unable to swallow or may have trouble swallowing liquids, foods, or saliva. Eating then becomes a challenge.

Causes

Vocal cord disorders are often caused by vocal abuse or misuse, such as excessive use of the voice when singing, talking, smoking, coughing, yelling, or inhaling irritants. Some of the more common vocal cord disorders include laryngitis, vocal nodules, vocal polyps, and vocal cord paralysis.

Dysphagia is a symptom of many different causes. One test, called a fiberoptic laryngoscopy, allows our staff to look down the throat with a lighted tube. Our physicians also work closely with local licensed speech-language pathologists to help ensure a thorough evaluation of all parts of the swallowing mechanism.

Symptoms

Voice symptoms may include:

  • Hoarseness lasting for more than two weeks
  • Difficulty projecting your voice
  • Vocal fatigue, or voice getting tired after talking for any length of time
  • Reduced range or breaks or gaps in the range; difficulties through the passage
  • Clearing the throat or excess throat mucus
  • Inability to do things with your voice that you could once do

Symptoms of swallowing disorders may include:

  • Drooling
  • A feeling that food or liquid is sticking in the throat
  • Discomfort in the throat or chest (when gastro esophageal reflux is present)
  • A sensation of a foreign body or “lump” in the throat
  • Weight loss and inadequate nutrition due to prolonged or more significant problems with swallowing
  • Coughing or choking caused by bits of food, liquid, or saliva not passing easily during swallowing, and being sucked into the lungs
  • Voice change

Treatment

Our voice treatment can include medications, surgery, or therapy. Each patient’s treatment plan attempts to address not only lesions on the vocal folds but also the underlying reasons for their development. Our approach of surgical procedures utilizes the state of art techniques to minimize procedural risks and recovery time.

Once the cause of the dysphagia is found, surgery or medication may help. Therapy with local speech-language pathology providers is utilized when needed.