What is Voice Disorders
Voice disorders are a range of conditions which affect the larynx. They can cause changes to the voice called dysphonia or loss of voice aphonia. These changes can affect the way the voice sounds, for example, making it sound hoarse, croaky, strained, breathy or weak. Voice disorders can also make the throat feel different, for example it might feel sore, achey or dry.
Voice disorders can cause difficulties in day-to-day life for some people. For example, it may be difficult to be heard by other people, or it may affect your work, school or hobbies. Voice disorders can also cause frustration, low mood or isolation in some cases.
Voice disorders have many different causes, including how you use your voice, lifestyle factors, medical conditions and many more. In some cases, a hoarse voice can be a sign of cancer or another medical condition, so if you have had a hoarse voice for more than three weeks, it is important to see your General Practitioner (GP). Most voice problems are not due to cancer, but it’s important to rule this out (Cancer Research UK, 2018).
Before you are referred to speech and language therapy for voice therapy, you will need to be seen by an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Doctor, who will look into your throat using a camera to establish what is causing your voice problem. This procedure is called an endoscopy, laryngoscopy or nasendoscopy.
You may be asked to attend a multidisciplinary voice clinic or joint voice clinic. This is a specialist clinic where an ENT Doctor and a speech and language therapist (SLT), and sometimes other professionals, will look into your throat with a camera and work together to agree the best management plan.
SLTs have an important role in helping people with voice disorders. After seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Doctor, you may be referred to speech and language therapy for voice therapy.
Input from an SLT may include:
> Helping you to understand what factors have contributed to your voice problem.
> Giving you information and advice about your voice.
> Suggesting things that you can do to improve your voice or reduce the impact that it is having.
> Teaching you some therapy techniques and exercises to improve your voice. You will usually be asked to practice these regularly at home, a bit like physiotherapy for your voice.
> Helping educate those around you (for example, your family, work or school, with your permission) about your voice condition and things that they can do to help.
> Teaching you how to keep your voice healthy in the long-term.
Some voice condition SLTs have an important role in helping people with voice disorders. After seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Doctor, you may be referred to speech and language therapy for voice therapy.
Lots of our information has been taken from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RSCLT) website – https://www.rcslt.org/speech-and-language-therapy/clinical-information/voice/#section-1