What is Dysphonia?
Dysphonia is the alteration in the quality of the voice. It leads to abnormal modifications in the three acoustic parameters of voice, in isolation or simultaneously. This results in alterations in the voice’s volume which becomes quieter, its pitch which becomes lower or higher, and its tone turns which becomes hoarse, rough and/or breathy. In short, the alteration of the voice through dysphonia manifests in different ways depending on the cause of the disorder.
What are some causes of dysphonia?
Dysphonia is caused by an impairment in the normal functioning of the vocal cords which occurs when there is a lesion, inflammation or discomfort in that area or in the larynx. There may be various causes of dysphonia:
- Inflammatory diseases (example: inflammation of the larynx or laryngitis).
- Benign and malignant tumors (example: vocal nodules, cysts and polyps).
- Laryngeal trauma.
- Neurological disorders (example: stroke, recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis, Parkinson’s disease).
- Psychogenic causes (example: stress and anxiety).
- Episodic and seasonal allergies.
- Vocal abuse and vocal misuse especially for those that permanently use their voice such as teachers, singers, kids that shout excessively, etc…
Hygienic and dietetic habits, smoking and acid reflux may also cause or aggravate preexisting dysphonia.
How to act?
When faced with voice discomfort or dysphonia, it is advisable to consult an ENT doctor who will indicate the cause and the appropriate medical treatment. In addition, speech therapy has been proven to be necessary and effective in many cases.
The speech therapists will first and foremost have the task of patient education and coaching. They will provide the patient with the necessary explanations and advice in order to achieve a targeted and complete vocal rehabilitation (example: advice on vocal hygiene, learning to use specific material in case of total larynx surgery, etc…). The speech therapist will also treat the vocal disorder with targeted therapy depending on its underlying cause. For example:
- Breathing techniques.
- Reestablishing a good coordination between breathing and speaking.
- Improving vocal resonance.
- Learning esophageal speech in the event of total laryngectomy (surgery during which the entire larynx is removed).
This is but an introduction to the Speech therapist’s extensive role in the rehabilitation of dysphonia.