There is help for those with voice disorders

A person's voice is as unique as their fingerprint and it helps define their personality, mood and health. Unfortunately, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have trouble using their voices. Many people who have normal speaking skills have great difficulty communicating when their vocal system fails. Disorders of the voice involve problems with the following:

• Pitch - the highness or lowness of a sound (a voice is too high or deep)

• Loudness - the volume of the sound (a voice is too loud or soft)

• Quality - the character of a sound ( a voice is hoarse or breathy)

The most prevalent and preventable types of voice disorders are due to vocal abuse and misuse. Anyone, from infants to the elderly using his or her voice excessively, may develop a disorder related to vocal abuse. Professional voice users such as lawyers, teachers, singers and cheerleaders, often develop these types of voice disorders. Also, much of the chronic hoarseness experienced by children is caused by vocal abuse or misuse.

The most common disorders resulting from vocal abuse and misuse are laryngitis, vocal nodules, vocal polyps and contact ulcers. Anyone experiencing vocal change or hoarseness for more than 10 days should be examined by an otolaryngologist, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck conditions. Following the examination, a referral to a speech-language pathologist may be made for speech therapy. A speech-language pathologist is a professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have vocal disorders.

Fortunately, most disorders of vocal abuse and misuse are reversible. The best treatment is to identify and eliminate the vocal behavior creating the voice disorder. However, the elimination of vocal behavior is not always enough; in some cases, medication is used. In other cases, surgery may be necessary to remove growths from the area. Usually, speech therapy is prescribed ensuring the contributing behaviors change and the problem doesn't return.

If you feel you are having problems with your voice, we are here to help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Center for Speech-Language Pathology at Flagstaff Medical Center at (928) 773-2125, or visit FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.

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