A Voice Problem:
• Is an unexpected change in the sound or feeling of your voice which doesn’t suit your vocal needs.
Symptoms include:- Huskiness, hoarseness, lowered pitch, decreased pitch range, difficulty projecting voice, voice breaks, throat discomfort (tickling throat clearing, pain), voice fatigue or decreased stamina.
When to seek help:-
1) When symptoms persist in the absence of an illness longer than two to three weeks.
2) Immediately if you have throat pain not associated with a cold/flu or if you are
coughing up blood or have a lump in the throat.
3) If you have a complete loss or severe change in voice lasting longer than a few days.
• If ignored, the problem can become chronic, more severe and can lead to development of pathologies like nodules.
• Rarely due to cancer unless you have been a smoker and a heavy drinker. • Is commonly misdiagnosed as laryngitis and often inappropriately given repeated
antibiotics or long-term use of throat gargles.
Some common causes of Voice problems
- Voice use patterns (eg faulty, excessive, misuse, abuse or discuss)
- Irritants - smoking (cigarettes, marijuana), dust/pollutants
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux
- Vocal injury:- trauma to larynx (intubation, external hit to the neck etc)
- Health issues/diseases: eg. Asthma, thyroid dysfunct
ion, arthritis, hormonal imbalance or neurological problem.
- Upper respiratory tract infections/inflammation
Some realities about voice problems
- Majority of voice problems don’t need surgery.
- The majority of voice problems are avoidable and remediable.
- Even the most accomplished highly trained singer can develop a voice problem
(same as an elite athlete is still susceptible to injury)
- Voice problems can have a huge psychological impact and can also be caused by
- You don’t realize how crucial your voice is until you lose it.
- Other people can be unsympathetic about voice problems and tend to comment more readily than they would if someone limped, stuttered or was in a wheelchair, e.g. “Have you got a cold?” or “That’s a sexy voice”. Often they raise their own volume assuming the person also has a hearing problem.
- 2/3 of voice problems are due to faulty use and can lead to pathology such as swelling, nodules, cysts or bleeds in the cords.
Prevalence of Voice Problems
- Virtually everyone at some stage over a one year period will experience a ‘croaky” throat whether due to a cold, fatigue or something more serious or long lasting.
- Whether this becomes a problem, usually depends on the severity, duration, how much you depend on your voice for social and vocational purposes and your reaction to the symptoms.
- 1/3 of performers experience some problem with their voice over a 1 year period, frequently requiring them to cancel a performance or to give a sub standard performance.
- High risk groups are those who use their voices a lot, those who use their voices incorrectly and those who use the extremes of their voice without relief, eg. school teachers, auctioneers, barristers, aerobics instructors, singers, actors, spruikers, sales representatives, telephonists/ call centre operators, clergy, children (yellers, choristers) etc.