Signs of Voice Problems

Posted on Apr 19, 2018

The larynx, or the voice box, is made up of a pair of vocal folds that vibrate when air passes in between them, producing voice. The vocal folds are two adjacent bands of muscles atop the windpipe and beneath the tongue. When these bands, or the structures of these bands, are jeopardized by a disease or disorder, the cost can be our voice. Voice actors or not, choir members or not, the human voice is a quintessential aspect of communication and social interaction. Therefore, we must be cautious of the different signs of voice problems.

Hoarseness can be defined as having difficulty in producing voice, or an altered quality of sound. The voice can either be raspy and rough; susceptible to fatigue; breathy or airy; or its pitch and volume may take on an unnatural level that is not inherent to the individual. This is the most common sign of voice problems. Causes may include allergies, colds and viruses; misuse or overuse of the voice; trauma to the voice box; acid reflux; excessive smoking and alcohol intake; aging; and neurological disorders involving the brain’s transmission of impulses or “messages” to the voice box. Be advised that hoarseness of more than two weeks should be taken as a call to consult a doctor, as it is a usual symptom of cancer.

Total loss of voice is also possible if the muscles of the voice box have been completely paralyzed. Say, from a direct insult to the part of the brain that sends nerve impulses to the vocal folds. A stroke patient might suffer from loss of voice and find themselves unable to express his feelings in words, simply because the benumbed vocal folds no longer receive anything from the brain via the nerves. On a brighter note, voice loss can only be a severe case of swelling of the vocal folds, which can be resolved given appropriate intervention.

Labored breathing and shortness of breath can also accompany vocal problems, as the voice box is situated in the same lane as the windpipe. The voice box’s contribution to respiration is the prevention of foreign substances like food, drink, and saliva from entering the windpipe, in turn preventing choking.

Swallowing problems also exist concurrently with voice issues. It has already been mentioned that the larynx acts as a padlock to keep out food and other substances from barging into our windpipe. So what if the larynx is rendered dysfunctional? Will it still be able to efficiently perform its duty of guarding our windpipe? Swallowing problems may involve the sensation of having a lump in the throat (literally), or choking.

Sore throat, in the same manner with painful or itchy throat, sore and swollen glands of the neck, and inflamed, reddish tonsils, are also related to voice problems. The tonsils are visible as you open your mouth wide enough to see the two sides of the throat’s entrance. Jaw and neck may also be tender due to swelling.

The doctor will recommend the appropriate diagnostic procedures to get to the root of the voice problem and address it then and there. As for now, recognition of these signs and symptoms can save you a lot of worries, and most of all—your voice.