Updated: Jul 6, 2020
The sound of your voice is an important part of your identity. It's used to make contact with others, convey emotions and create connections. Your voice is a part of your identity--you can often be recognized just by the sound of your voice. Everyone needs their voice, particularly those who rely on their voice for their livelihood. This includes teachers, coaches, politicians, actors and singers.
Sometimes your ability to produce a clear, strong voice may change. This is called dysphonia.
Voice problems can be caused by voice misuse and overuse (e.g. from yelling or straining to speak loudly). Disorders may also be associated with:
Growths on the vocal cords (e.g. nodules, polyps)
Cancer or surgery
Allergies or asthma
Illnesses (e.g. common cold, bronchitis, laryngitis) and medications
Weakness, paralysis or involuntary movements of the vocal cords due to neurological diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease)
When you have dysphonia, you may experience discomfort or fatigue while speaking, and your voice may become:
A hoarse, breathy, raspy or strained voice
A raw or aching feeling in your throat
A need to clear your throat or cough frequently
Reduced breath support when speaking
Inability to speak loudly (i.e. decreased volume)
Reduced pitch range (i.e. lowest to highest sounds) when speaking or singing
If the voice changes don't go away, you should see your physician for an evaluation. Your physician may refer you to an ear, nose and throat physician, who will examine you further and develop a treatment plan. As part of your treatment, you may be referred to a speech-language pathologist for voice therapy.
During your initial evaluation, the speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist or clinician, will:
Ask questions about your medical history, lifestyle and voice usage
Ask you to perform some speaking tasks and make some non-speaking sounds
Use measurements and computer analysis to determine if loudness, pitch and other characteristics are significantly different from others of your gender and age range
Refer to a ENT who will use special equipment to observe and record the movements of your larynx, or "voice box"
If the therapist determines you would benefit from voice therapy, a treatment plan will be designed for you.
Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT-LOUD) and Speakout! are available for persons with Parkinson's disease.
During voice therapy, you will be lead through a variety of tasks that address the physical aspects of voice production:
Improving breath support
Reducing muscle tension
Strengthening the vocal muscles within the larynx
Recommending lifestyle changes that can improve your voice
Developing an at-home treatment program for use between sessions