A voice disorder occurs when voice quality, loudness and pitch appear to be different, altered, or seems inappropriate for an individual’s gender, age, location, or background. When an individual expresses concern about having an abnormal voice that does not meet daily needs, a voice disorder may be present.
Voice disorders may be classified as the following:
Organic: Physiological in nature, resulting from changes in the respiratory, or laryngeal systems, or the vocal tract.
Functional: Result from improper use of the vocal mechanism when there are no physiological changes present (eg. excessive yelling, or throat clearing etc.)
Changes in vocal quality may also be a result of psychological stressors causing an individual to habitually alter the quality, pitch or loudness of their voice, or to lose their voice intermittently or completely. When a psychological voice disorder is suspected the Speech-Language Pathologist may suggest that the individual also see an appropriate professional (eg. Psychologist or Psychiatrist) so that the appropriate diagnosis is made and a treatment plan is established.
Voice disorders are commonly present in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease, as well as several other Progressive Neurological Disorders.
Depending on the extent of the difficulties, an unclear or altered voice may have an impact on:
- How well an individual interacts with others
- Confidence in speaking situations
- How long an individual is able to use their voice or increase their vocal loudness
- The overall health and integrity of the vocal folds
Assessing your child’s speech/articulation skills
At Magnolia Speech & Wellness, our main goal with voice disorders is trying to figure out the root cause(s) and developing a functional treatment plan that suits our clients’ needs. Our hope is that by narrowing down the cause, we may be able to help develop lifelong healthy habits that assist in keeping the voice strong and clear. Assessments typically begin by gathering background information that help us determine when the voice changes began and any factors that may be contributing to these changes. We often work closely with Ear, Nose and Throat Doctors (ENT) who are able to complete diagnostic tests that look at the shape, integrity and movement of the vocal folds and surrounding structures and tissue. If the SLP does not feel that an ENT referral is necessary she/he will perform simple assessments that look at respiration (breathing), vocal quality and intensity, posture and unhealthy vocal habits (eg. excessive throat clearing). Formal and informal assessments are then completed to help determine the nature and severity of the voice disorder.
Treating a voice disorder
If the voice disorder is functional in nature (resulting from improper breath support or use of the voice), our SLPs will work closely with the client and/or family member(s) to help establish healthy habits. These may include taking deeper breaths, sitting up tall, slowing rate of speech, working to strengthen the vocal folds through different pitch and loudness exercises, eliminating unhealthy vocal use habits and establishing some healthy habits to replace them. When voice disorders are organic in nature, our SLPs will typically work closely with our client’s Primary Physician or ENT to establish an appropriate plan of action.
At Magnolia Speech & Wellness we strive to make therapy fun, engaging and extremely functional, based on individual client needs. Consistent home practice is always highly recommended and essential in order to achieve successful results. Our services cater to the needs of our clients and their family. As a result, sessions range in length, frequency, and duration.