What is a Voice Disorder?

Our voice is an integral part of who we are. When you hear someone on the radio or you speak to a person on the phone, you can generally tell the age and sex of the speaker and something of their cultural background. Our voices give away a lot about our health and the current state of our emotions. Our voice can even be an indicator of some of our personality traits. But what happens when our voice lets us down and we develop a voice disorder?

A voice disorder is said to exist when the quality, pitch, and loudness of a voice differs from the voices of other of a similar age, gender, cultural background and geographic location. It occurs when the structure or function of the larynx (which contain the vocal folds) are no longer meeting our voice requirements.

Symptoms of a Voice Disorder

According to Elizabeth Clark, M.S., CCC-SLP there are nine primary symptoms of voice disorders:

  1. Hoarseness – caused by irregular vibration of the vocal folds; voice sounds “raspy” or “rough”
  2. Fatigue – feeling tired after prolonged talking; continued talking takes great effort; vocal fatigue often co-occurs with hoarseness
  3. Breathy Voice – unable to say complete sentences without running out of air; difficulty being heard
  4. Reduced Pitch Range – usually associated with singers who report difficulty producing notes that previously presented no problem; tiredness & soreness in throat
  5. Aphonia (Dysphonia) – absence of voice; usually have to speak in whisper; great deal of effort required to speak
  6. Pitch Breaks – periodic squeakiness; voice cracks; voice seems out of control; client reports never knowing what sound will come out
  7. Strain/Struggle Voice – difficult to talk; inability to get voicing started or to maintain voice; it is a strain to talk; clients report feeling tension while speaking and become fatigued from speaking due to the effort involved
  8. Tremor – voice is wobbly or shaky; unable to produce a steady, sustained sound
  9. Pain – pain in the vocal fold area can be unilateral or bilateral and can even radiate to the upper chest

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms consult your G.P. A Speech Pathologist will be able to assist you to change harmful vocal habits and use your voice in a safe, natural manner.

Newcastle Speech Pathology is available for vocal assessment and management of a wide range of vocal disorders. We work closely with your medical team including G.P. and E.N.T. (Ear Nose and Throat) Specialist to provide you with an evidence-based vocal hygiene programme for managing your voice disorder.

Read how to avoid habits which can lead to a voice disorder and learn what you can do to protect your voice in our blog entitled Caring for your voice.

Written by Alison
Speech Pathologist
Newcastle Speech Pathology