Voice is produced when air from the lungs is transformed into a tone by the vibrating vocal folds, or vocal cords, in the larynx.
Voice has a number of characteristics – pitch, volume, quality and resonance. People can be very self-conscious about changes to the sound of their voice and many believe that their voice is a large part of that which defines who they are.
These may include:
• Change of voice quality – what was once a clear voice, may now sound husky and hoarse
• A breathy voice and a feeling of running out of air when speaking
• Change in pitch – perhaps developing a deeper voice, or not being able to reach certain singing notes any longer
• Ongoing problems with losing your voice.
Changes to the sound of one’s voice often come about as the direct result of physical changes in the larynx. These changes may arise due to:
• Vocal abuse – this is the most common cause of voice disorders. Frequently straining the voice or straining for prolonged periods of time may damage the delicate structures involved in producing a clear voice. This damage may be temporary, or more long-term.
• Infection or inflammation due to illness.
• Traumatic injuries to the neck area and vocal tract.
• Neurological conditions causing weakness or palsy.
• Tumours and other benign growths, and their subsequent treatment.
• Irritation caused by gastric reflux.
Frequently, people are referred for speech therapy in relation to voice disorders which appear to be occurring as a result of excess muscle tension in the larynx, usually resulting from life-stress.
Many voice disorders can be treated through a block of voice therapy. Some cases may require surgical intervention.
It is our preferred practice at Speech Pathology Tasmania, for our voice clients to seek an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist appointment before embarking on a course of voice therapy. Review by an ENT will involve directly observing the larynx and vocal folds. This enables diagnosis of physical factors which may be present and allows for an appropriate method of treatment to be selected.