1. How does acid reflux affect my voice?
Stomach acid is extremely irritating to the delicate vocal cords and will cause them to swell. Once the vocal cords are swollen they can't vibrate as well as they need to and this results in hoarseness and effortful speech.
2. Does smoking really affect my voice?
Yes! Even casual smokers have changes in the vocal folds which reduce their ability to vibrate and can cause some hoarseness. Chronic smoking, of course, is directly related to laryngeal cancer which often presents as a change in the quality of the voice, and there are other smoking-related vocal fold diseases such as Reinke's edema or polypoid degeneration of the vocal folds.
3. What are the symptoms of a voice disorder?
Voice disorders have many symptoms. We certainly think of hoarseness as the most common, but it may also cause a reduction in the volume, a restriction in your pitch range, or loss of the voice entirely.
4. How is a voice disorder diagnosed?
Voice disorders are diagnosed by listening to and understanding the story of what has happened to your voice over time, examining your entire head and neck, and performing a laryngoscopy which enables us to look at the vocal folds highly magnified to assess their function. We work closely with a team of speech/language pathologists who are able to complement these findings with their sophisticated analytic tools.
5. My voice is weak. Can anything be done to make it stronger?
A voice that is weak may have many different causes, and each of these causes will have a different solution. For many patients with a weak voice we are able to provide the appropriate intervention to improve your voice quality.
6. What happens during an office visit to the Voice Center?
During a typical visit to the Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders we will review the history that you have provided for us on our intake forms, ask several questions of our own, and then perform an examination which will include a fiberoptic laryngoscopy. This laryngoscopy utilizes a fine flexible telescope which is passed through your nose after it has been anesthetized and allows us to look directly at the vocal cords. On many occasions we will have you seen by one of our speech/language pathologists on this very same day so that we can meet together as a team and determine what is the best possible treatment for you and your voice disorder.
7. What is a videostroboscopy?
A videostroboscopy is a special form of laryngoscopy which uses a strobe light that is synchronized to the frequency of your own voice so that we can see the vocal folds move in simulated slow motion. This is a necessary component of any comprehensive voice evaluation and allows us to see subtle changes in the vocal cords that can be missed with a regular laryngoscopy.
8. Why would I need a speech/language pathologist?
The speech/language pathologists are an integral part of our care team at the Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders. They are able to complement our evaluation with their own professional understanding of voice disorders. They use special diagnostic equipment to complement our physical examination and are able to provide education and therapy when it is appropriate.
9. What can be done about paralyzed vocal cords?
We often refer to a vocal fold that is not moving as paralyzed. In fact, the vocal fold may be paralyzed implying the nerve is no longer functioning to move the vocal cord. There are cases, however, when the vocal fold is not moving and the nerve is in good health, and there is some other mechanical obstruction preventing the vocal cord from moving. The care of the fixed vocal fold depends on the underlying cause.
10. What is a medialization laryngoplasty?
A medialization laryngoplasty is a surgical procedure performed to help the vocal folds close completely. Normal vocal folds open completely in order to breathe and then close completely in order to have a good strong voice. Many conditions interfere with the ability of the vocal folds to close completely and symmetrically. The goal of the medialization laryngoplasty is to put a small implant behind one or both vocal folds to assist in their ability to close completely and therefore return a normal or near-normal voice.
11. What is LPR?
LPR stands for laryngopharyngeal reflux. Laryngopharyngeal reflux is the presence of stomach acid that has traveled the entire length of the esophagus and is now present high up in the throat near the vocal cords. This causes a significant irritation which can have a significant impact on the voice and voice quality.
12. Are there any tips for a healthy voice?
The vocal folds are delicate and need to be treated that way. They must remain moist. In order to keep them moist, it is important that you maintain your hydration. Follow the guidelines of drinking eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day, avoid beverages that tend to cause dehydration (such as those with caffeine and carbonation), control your acid reflux through a combination of lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and acid-suppressive medication. If you are a singer, you might benefit from a voice coach. Smoking should be eliminated and certain behaviors which are hard on the voice should be minimized.