About 2/3 of Americans, or close to 28 million peopls suffer from voice
problems daily. That can be a problem for people who rely on their voice
for their jobs.
Katherine Kendall, MD is an ENT/Head and Neck Surgeon and Voice and
Swallowing Disorders Specialist with University of Utah Health Care and
highlights some of the problems and solutions.
Many people are surprised to hear that anyone who uses their voice
regularly and rely on it to make their living are at risk – people like you, in
fact. Teachers (especially elementary school teachers), Lawyers, politicians
(remember Bill Clinton losing his voice during the campaign?) are some
high-risk groups. Then there are those who people are more likely to think
of such as singers, like Adele, who had to take time off her career to repair
her voice. But really, anyone who uses his or her voice a lot is at risk. A lot
of soccer moms end up with a voice problem at some point in their life.
The most important indicator is a change in your voice quality – not only
losing it completely, but a noticeable change in the voice – that lasts more
than a week or two and does not seem to improve with rest. A specialist
should evaluate those cases.
The unique thing about the vocal cords is that your larynx – or voice box –
does not have pain nerves, so you don’t have the usual early warning
system that you get from other injuries or strains to your body. If you strain
a muscle in your back, you’re going to know it. Your voice is different – a
change in your voice may be your only indicator. Your voice may change in
terms of how it sounds, you may find yourself having to make more effort
to speak loudly enough to be heard, or you may lose it completely.
A wide range of problems can cause voice disorders. Overuse – or if you’ve
been yelling at a sporting event too much misuse – can lead to nodules,
which are like callouses on your vocal cords that keep them from vibrating
properly. However, voice problems can also be an indicator of more serious
problems like laryngeal cancer. This is why evaluation by a specialist is so
If these problems are consistent or recurrent it is important to be seen and
evaluated by a specialist. In the meantime, and any time you’re having
voice trouble the most important thing you can do is REST. Give your voice
a break. Don’t speak unless absolutely necessary, and drink plenty of
liquids – especially water. Also, avoid whispering. People assume that it is
better than speaking, but it is actually very hard on your vocal cords. Also,
as any doctor will tell you, don’t smoke. It’s bad for your heart, lungs, skin,
and your vocal cords.
We will be conducting free voice evaluations May 31 at our clinic in
Research Park near the University of Utah.
For more information about the screening or other voice disorder
questions, visit http://utahvoice.org/ or call (801)