Voice Disorder Causes
The term voice disorder is a broad term that refers to an abnormality in the anatomy and/or physiology of the voice mechanism- which impacts voice quality and breathing. There are a variety of voice disorders and vocal pathologies that may be causing your child’s voice to sound different and breathing pattern to change. There are also a variety of reasons a vocal pathology can occur.
We are going to highlight some of the most prominent causes of voice disorders. If you do not think any of these causes fit your child, or your child has a diagnosis that is not listed and you have concerns about their voice, you should still seek the opinion of a professional such as an Otolaryngologist (ENT), or a speech-language pathologist.
Poor vocal hygiene significantly impacts voice health and can lead to a voice disorder. Vocal hygiene refers to your habits and lifestyle as it relates to the health and support of your voice. Examples of poor vocal hygiene are dehydration, frequent yelling/screaming, frequent throat clearing, frequent whispering, significant caffeine intake, untreated gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), significant and extended voice use without rest, and smoking or secondhand smoke. Poor vocal hygiene or continued improper voice use can cause voice disorders such as vocal fold nodules, vocal fold polyps, Reinke’s Edema, GERD laryngitis, and laryngeal edema. Your voice is a muscle, just like any other in your body. If you try to run a mile without stretching and hydrating, you are at risk of injury. Your voice works the same way, if you try to talk all day without resting, warming up, and without proper hydration, you are at risk of injury.
A unilateral or bilateral paralysis and paresis of the vocal cords can cause the voice to sound abnormal. A paralysis is when the one or both of the vocal cords do not move properly (open or close properly). A paresis is also when one or both of the cords do not move properly, but they may still be able to move slightly. Overall, both of these disorders impair the vibration of your vocal cords. Your vocal cords are a symmetric pair. When one side does not work as it is supposed to, it prevents the vocal cords from vibrating the way they are supposed to. Potential causes of paresis or paralysis are trauma to the head or neck, head/neck surgery, tumors at the skull base, strokes, and postviral vagal neuropathy. A speech-language pathologist and ENT will work together to determine the best way to improve your child’s voice and potentially swallowing if they are diagnosed with paralysis or paresis of the vocal cord(s).
Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion Disorder (PVFMD) is when the motion of the vocal cords is abnormal, causing the vocal folds/cords to close when they are supposed to open during the breath cycle. PVFMD is often misdiagnosed as asthma because when the vocal cords shut during breathing, it mimics the feeling of an asthma attack. Each case is different, but some potential contributors to PVFMD are acid reflux, stress and anxiety, and lung conditions.
If you have any other questions or concerns about what may be causing your child’s voice quality to change, reach out to an Otolaryngologist (ENT) or feel free to give us a call at Kidmunicate and we will connect you with one of our educated therapists.