ENT Nuffield Medical

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Voice Box Disorders

Professional singers are more likely suffer from voice box disordersbut it can also people in other professions such as teachers and soldiers.

Doctor, there’s a lump in my throat

It’s not just painful when you speak; you could also sound: 

  • trembly  
  • hoarse
  • choppy 
  • breathy
  • too high- or low-pitched   

Voice disorders are a result of abuse, overuse or misuse

First, here’s how voice is produced: Our vocal cords are a pair of bands of smooth muscle tissue located in the voice box (or larynx). The latter can be found in the neck at the top of the trachea (or windpipe).   

When air from the lungs passes through the vocal cords, causing them to vibrate and produce sound hence your voice. Oh, how you sound depends on the size and shape of your vocal cords and resonating cavities, namely your throat, nose and mouth.      

Excessive singing, speaking, screaming, smoking, coughing or even inhaling irritants can hurt and damage your vocal cords.    

Common voice disorders – some more serious than others

  • Laryngitis inflammation of the vocal cords   
  • Vocal nodules or polyps benign growths on the vocal cords 
  • Spasmodic dysphonia involuntary spasms in the larynx muscles  
  • Vocal cord paralysis inability to control vocal cord muscles    

Cancer commonly associated with smoking and can occur around vocal cords 

Consult an ENT specialist if hoarseness persists for more than 2 weeks

During a consultation, your ENT specialist will discuss your medical history and symptoms, after which a physical examination will be done.  

It may involve the following:   

  • Laryngoscopy to view the throat via a thin, lighted scope.  
  • Laryngeal electromyography, or EMG to measure electrical activity in the throat and determine nerve conditions.  
  • Stroboscopy to check vocal cords vibration during speech.    
  • Imaging tests like X-rays and MRI to check for growths or tissue problems. 

Treatment options, as such, will vary with causes and conditions. These can include speech therapy to strengthen breathing and improve vocalisations; medications; injections; and lifestyle management such as regular rest for the voice. 

When voice box surgery is required

Voice box surgery is a surgical procedure used to treat conditions affecting the larynx. It is recommended usually to prevent spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.   

Different types of voice box surgery may be advised depending on the condition. Most are carried out while patients are under general anaesthesia. It requires a small incision to be made in the neck and a laser to remove the growths or cells.