Losing your voice can be a significant inconvenience. Day to day activities like ordering a coffee or talking to work colleagues are disrupted until your voice gets back into shape. Imagine the impact of having an ongoing voice problem that was actually a voice disorder? Imagine if you relied on your voice as your source of income?
How speech pathology treats voice disorders
What is a voice disorder?
A voice disorder is any change to the pitch, volume or quality of a person’s voice that impacts their ability to particulate and function in everyday life. Up to 6% of the population has a voice disorder. Concerningly, this increases to 21% for those who use their voice professionally such as teachers, ministers, actors and singers.
A voice loss is also known as dysphonia
How is your voice created?
The structure used to create voice is your voice box (larynx). Your larynx is located towards the front of your neck. It is surrounded by muscles in your neck, throat and shoulders. This sits on top of the trachea, which is the tube that leads to the lungs. Your larynx is made up of two sets of vocal cords/folds. These include the true vocal folds and the false vocal folds. The vocal folds are very tiny and delicate and have to be in optimum health.
When you speak, a number of physiological processes occur:
- You breathe in
- The true vocal folds come together (adduct)
- As you breathe out to speak, the air from your lungs travels up the trachea through the true vocal folds.
- Since the true vocal folds are in contact, the travelling air makes them vibrate.
- These vibrations travel upwards where the muscles in your mouth shape them into speech that we can understand.
1 Ma, E. P., Yiu, E. M., Abbott, K. V. (2007) Application of the ICF in voice disorders.Seminars in Speech and Language 2007 Nov;28(4):343-50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17935019. Accessed 11 Jan. 2019.
2 Baker, J. Ben-Torvin, D. Butcher, A. Esterman, A. & McLaughlin, K. (2007) Development of a modified diagnostic classification system for voice disorders with inter-rater reliability. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 2007;32(3):99-112. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17885938. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
3 Obrien, J. O. (2014) Participation-focused Intervention among US Speech Language Pathologists. Masters Thesis, University of Washington. https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/27230/OBrien_washington_0250O_13701.pdf?sequence=1. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
4 Voice: Person Centered Focus on Function. American Speech Language Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/ICF-Voice-Disorders.pdf. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.