We want to answer all of your questions. We have put together this list of Frequently Asked Questions to help with that. If there are any questions we didn't address, please bring it to our attention and we will add them.
How do I know if I have a voice problem?
A voice problem exsists if your voice becomes hoarse, raspy, gravely, breathy, weak, spastic, tense, or if it is painful or sore to speak, and if this persists for more than a couple of weeks. If symptoms occur for up to four weeks, a comprehensive voice evaluation with videostroboscopy is probably warranted.
How is a voice disorder diagnosed?
At the Kansas Voice Center, a team approach to diagnosing a voice disorder includes the following:
1. Perceptual speech pathology evaluation in which a thorough history of the problem is taken along with baseline measures on various voicing tasks.
2. Videostroboscopic examination in which pictures and video of the vocal cords are taken and then analyzed for problems with the vocal cord tissue or muscle function. Two scopes are used to accomplish this. For the flexible scope, a topical anesthetic spray is used to numb the nose, and a very thin scope is passed through the nose and into the upper part of the throat to view the larynx (vocal cords). This scope allows a patient to talk or sing as needed to obtain information. The second scope is called a rigid scope and is placed in the mouth while the patient says “ee”. This allows a magnified view of the vocal cords and gives important information for how they are vibrating. Neither scope is painful and both scopes are brief. All the pictures are recorded as a video for comparisons during follow up appointments if needed.
3. Additional acoustic computer analysis completes the evaluation.
What is a Videostroboscopy?
Videostroboscopy refers to using a special camera and light source that gives the illusion that the vocal cords are moving in slow motion. When the vocal cords are viewed in this manner, it is much easier to correctly diagnose a problem.
Why do I need to see a speech language pathologist?
The field of speech pathology is vast with many who specialize in different areas. Speech pathologists are familiar with the anatomy and physiology of the larynx and are able to both evaluate and treat many voice disorders. Many speech pathologists in hospital and school settings will see adults and children with voice problems. A few speech pathologists will specialize primarily in the area of voice. They usually evaluate and treat patients in a voice clinic setting with a specialized ear nose and throat physician.
Does smoking and/or alcohol affect my voice?
Yes, usually in a negative way. Inhaled smoke passes through the vocal cords and over time causes significant irritation and sometimes changes in the vocal cord tissue. Alcohol is dehydrating to your body in general. In moderation, alcoholic beverages are probably okay as long as you are staying well hydrated with water.
Is drinking water good for my voice?
Yes. Water is ingested and first travels to the stomach. It then goes to the bloodstream and hydrates the entire body, including the vocal cords. Studies have even shown that vocal cords that are well hydrated vibrate more efficiently. The amount of water you need is dependent on your weight. In general, divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2. This is how many ounces of water a day you should generally try to consume.
Why would my private singing instructor recommend I get a
If a singing instructor hears something in your voice that is different from the norm and that doesn’t seem to be “fixed” with technique alone, he/she may want to ensure that there isn’t anything physically wrong with your vocal cords. A videostroboscopy is the only way to obtain magnified pictures that are viewed in very slow motion. Sometimes, subtle problems are identified that are difficult to view with a traditional type of laryngeal exam.
What can be done for a paralyzed vocal cord?
Vocal cord paralysis can occur for many reasons and can leave one’s voice breathy, hoarse, and very weak. If the paralysis persists beyond 9-12 months, it is highly likely that the nerve is permanently damaged. Two main procedures can significantly improve vocal quality, allowing for a louder, stronger, less breathy voice.
1. Vocal cord injection: A paste like substance can be injected to bulk up the paralyzed cord and improve closure. The substance used can vary between physicians, with the most current materials including collagen, hydroxyl apetite, cymetra, and fat. Most injections are temporary and may require re-injection in 4-5 months. .
2. Medialization thyroplasty: A small silicone implant is placed permanently to actually move the paralyzed vocal cord to obtain better closure. A medialization procedure lasts permanently.