The Voice Disorders Center at University Health Care provides many management options for voice disorders (behavioral, pharmaceutical, surgical). Our team of specialists is trained in the latest technology in voice, airway, and swallowing disorders.

Conditions

voice

We treat the following conditions:

  • Airway disorders
  • Hoarseness
  • Laryngitis
  • Laryngeal papillomatosis
  • Laryngeal dysplasia/cancer
  • Spasmodic dysphonia
  • Vocal fold paralysis

Services

Our services include the following:

  • Laryngology
  • Speech pathology
  • Office stroboscopy and endoscopy (larynx, airway, esophagus)
  • Office-based procedures of the laryngopharynx
  • Vocal fold injection
  • Biopsy
  • Vocal fold microsurgery
  • Spasmodic dysphonia care botulinum toxin therapy (vocal fold, jaw, and face)
  • Vocal fold paralysis management laryngeal electromyography (EMG)
  • Injection
  • Medialization
  • Reinnervation
  • Vocal fold reconstruction
  • Microsurgery and laser surgery
  • Singing voice diagnosis

Schedule an Appointment

Phone: (801) 587-8368

Physician Referrals

We look forward to providing you with an array of voice care services and working closely with your practice. Please fill out our online referring physician information form link to ent physician referral form or referrals can be faxed to this number: (801) 587-3569.

What are some examples of voice, airway, and swallowing disorders?

Examples of voice disorders include recurrent laryngitis, vocal fold paralysis, presbylaryngis (aging voice), papilloma, cancer of the vocal folds, benign essential tremor, vocal fold web, muscle tension dysphonia, spasmodic dysphonia, and benign vocal fold growths, such as polyps, nodules, cysts, and granulomas.

There are also breathing disorders that are related to the larynx (voice box), such as paradoxical vocal fold motion (also known as vocal cord dysfunction, laryngospasm), or disorders of the trachea (wind pipe), such as subglottic or tracheal stenosis. These disorders may or may not affect the voice, but are also treated at our center.

Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), can occur at different stages in the swallowing process: oral phase (mouth), pharyngeal (throat) phase, or esophageal (swallowing tube from throat to the stomach) phase and are evaluated and treated in our center. Individuals with chronic cough are also often seen in and treated in our clinic.

What are the symptoms of most voice, breathing, or swallowing problems?

Hoarseness is one of the most common symptoms of voice problems. Other common symptoms of voice disorders include effortful talking, persistent pain or sore throat with voice use, shortness of breath while speaking, reduced volume, reduced vocal endurance, chronic throat clearing, and chronic cough with or without coughing attacks.

Dyspnea (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing) with inhalation, inhalation and exhalation, and/or without exertion but with symptoms of noisy breathing (wheezing/stridor), and throat tightness are symptoms of individuals with breathing difficulties. These are airway disorders, which we also treat.

Coughing during or right after eating or drinking, a wet or gurgly sounding voice during or after eating or drinking, extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow, food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth, throat or chest, recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating, and weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat enough are symptoms of swallowing disorders.

How are voice, airway, and swallowing disorders treated?

The Voice Disorders Center provides a number of different behavioral, pharmaceutical, surgical, and medical management options. A thorough evaluation and proper diagnosis are necessary prior to treatment planning.

For New Patients

To make your appointment the most effective, please read the following information. If you are being seen for breathing problems or cough, be sure to read the "What to Expect" section below.

Forms for new patients are also provided. Note that there are separate/additional forms for patients with breathing, coughing, and/or swallowing symptoms.

What to Bring

  • Driver’s license or photo ID
  • Insurance card
  • Any medical records that are applicable for your appointment (these can be faxed to (801) 587-3569)
  • List of current medications
  • New patient forms
  • Copies of previous CT or other imaging scans (on disc), breathing test results and/or swallow studies (on disc), if applicable
  • Foods/liquids that cause difficulties (read "What to Expect" below), if being seen for swallowing

What to Expect

what to expect

You will be seen by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat physician) and speech pathologist with expertise in voice, upper airway, and swallowing disorders. If you are a singer, please inform us when you schedule your appointment so that you will see the singing voice specialist as well. We will ask you questions about your history of voice, breathing, and/or swallowing problems. If you are being seen for a voice problem, we will identify your current vocal demands. We will ask you to perform a number of tasks that require you to use your voice in different ways. We will also record your voice during these tasks.

For breathing problems, we may attempt to provoke your breathing problems by walking/running on a treadmill or by presenting strong odors/perfumes, if applicable to your symptoms. If you have a specific trigger for your breathing problems, please bring it with you during your appointment, if possible.

If you are being seen for a swallowing problem, an in-office swallow evaluation will be performed. If you have certain type of food or liquid that you have problems swallowing, please bring it with you to your appointment.

Laryngostroboscopy

Laryngostroboscopy (laryngoscopy with a strobe light) is necessary to clearly identify any lesions or growths on your vocal folds as well as any abnormal vibratory patterns. Rigid or flexible endoscopes are used during this examination. Laryngoscopy is also used to assess upper airway breathing problems and swallowing problems affecting the throat. This is not a painful procedure and most individuals report little or no discomfort. We can use topical anesthetic as needed. You will be able to eat, drink, drive, and return to home or work following your appointment.

  • laryngostroboscopy
  • laryngostroboscopy

Treatment

The entire care team will explain the results of testing to you and will allow you time to ask questions. We will provide you with treatment options and explain the benefits and potential risks of each option. We may also refer you for further testing. If additional testing is needed, our office will help you schedule those appointments.

  • treatment
  • treatment

Singing Voice Services

Singer being evaluatedIf you are a singer or if your singing voice is of concern to you, our Singing Voice Specialist (SVS), Faye Muntz, MM, will see you during the initial evaluation with the voice team. An SVS provides a separate focus from a singing coach or teacher. She has expertise in the rehabilitation of singing voices, which is usually outside the scope of regular voice lessons. Faye has extensive experience and expertise in rehabilitating singers who have suffered laryngeal injury or muscular imbalances. Frequently the voice teachers in the community refer their students to be seen by Faye when they have concerns. Faye’s evaluation and recommendations are necessary in order for us to provide an accurate treatment plan for you.

Singing voice services are not covered by insurance and fees are due at the time of your appointment. Most of the patients who are singers require sessions with our singing voice specialist, and we find that it is actually less expensive and time-consuming for the singer if the singing voice specialist is present at the initial evaluation.

Singing rehab specialistFaye Muntz received a BA degree from the University of Cincinnati as a voice major at the College-Conservatory of Music and her master’s degree in vocal performance with a pedagogy emphasis from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Before moving to Salt Lake City, she was a featured soloist and professional member of the Bach Society of St. Louis and has produced and directed several musical productions there. She has served as a clinician and lecturer for the Salt Lake Jazz Festival, given lectures on vocal hygiene at the University of Utah School of Music as well as at Utah State University, performed in the Temple Square Artist Series concerts, and judged local, regional, and national vocal competitions for numerous organizations, including the Utah Symphony-Utah Opera Salute to Youth competition.

She has been the singing voice specialist for the University of Utah Voice Disorders Center, a vocal teacher, and has continued her education through clinical observation, seminars, coursework, and workshops throughout the country since 2000.

For Professional Voice Users

People who use their voice for a living are more at risk for developing voice problems. Occupations that require significant voice use include the following:

  • Teaching
  • Singing
  • Acting
  • Sales
  • Telemarketing
  • Customer service
  • Lawyers
  • Waiter/waitresses
basketball

Avocational Voice Use

Recreational activities can also be vocally demanding:

  • Singing
  • Acting
  • Coaching
  • Athletics
  • Sporting events (yelling at the football game)
  • Public speaking
  • Volunteer work (that requires extended voice use)
  • Voice problems
  • Hoarseness or undesirable voice quality
  • Vocal fatigue (voice wears out or worsens with use)
  • Fluctuating voice quality
  • Reduced volume or pitch flexibility
  • Pain or soreness associated with voice use

Cause for Concern?

Any sudden or severe voice changes should be evaluated immediately. Gradual onset of hoarseness, vocal fatigue, or other symptoms of laryngitis that persist for longer than three weeks should be evaluated as well.

Increased Vocal Demands

  • Any profession that requires three or more hours of speaking or singing per day is considered to be vocally demanding.
  • Greater stress on the voice occurs when working in noisy environments such as construction sites, factories, or classrooms.
  • Speaking or singing for greater than one hour at a time is also considered to be extended voice use.
  • Even highly trained voice users (professional singers, actors) can develop voice problems, despite good vocal technique.

Vocal Cord Disorders

What are vocal cord disorders?

The vocal cords (also called vocal folds) are two bands of smooth muscle tissue located in the larynx (voice box). The larynx is located in the neck at the top of the trachea (windpipe). Vocal cords produce the sound of your voice by vibration and the air passing through the cords from the lungs. The sound the vocal cords produce is then sent through the throat, nose, and mouth, giving the sound "resonance." The sound of each individual voice is determined by the size and shape of the vocal cords and the size and shape of the throat, nose, and mouth (the resonating cavities).

Vocal cord disorders are often caused by vocal abuse or misuse, such as excessive use of the voice when singing, talking, smoking, coughing, yelling, or inhaling irritants. Some of the more common vocal cord disorders include laryngitis, vocal nodules, vocal polyps, and vocal cord paralysis.

Laryngitis

Vocal nodules

Vocal polyps

Vocal cord paralysis

Laryngitis is often characterized by a raspy or hoarse voice due to inflammation of the vocal cords. Laryngitis can be caused by excessive use of the voice, infections, inhaled irritants, or gastroesophageal reflux (the backup of stomach acid into the throat).

Vocal nodules are benign (noncancerous) growths on the vocal cords caused by vocal abuse. Vocal nodules are a frequent problem for professional singers. The nodules are small and callous-like and usually grow in pairs (one on each cord). The nodules usually form on areas of the vocal cords that receive the most pressure when the cords come together and vibrate (similar to the formation of a callous). Vocal nodules cause the voice to be hoarse, low, and breathy.

A vocal polyp is a soft, benign (noncancerous) growth, similar to a blister. Voice polyps cause the voice to be hoarse, low, and breathy.

Paralysis of the vocal cords may occur when one or both vocal cords or folds does not open or close properly. A common disorder, this condition can range from relatively mild to life-threatening. When one or both vocal cords are paralyzed, the open cord(s) allows food or liquids to slip into the trachea and lungs. A person may experience difficulty swallowing and coughing. Vocal cord paralysis may be caused by the following:

  • Head, neck, or chest trauma

  • Complication during surgery

  • Stroke

  • Tumor

  • Lung or thyroid cancer

  • Certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease

  • Viral infection

Treatment may include surgery and voice therapy. Sometimes, no treatment is necessary and a person recovers on his or her own.

How are vocal cord disorders diagnosed?

Any hoarseness or change in voice that lasts longer than two weeks should be brought to the attention of your doctor. (Sometimes the hoarseness may be indicative of laryngeal cancer.) In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, the doctor may examine the vocal cords internally with a small scope called a laryngoscope. In the case of paralysis, your doctor may also perform a laryngeal electromyography that measures the electrical current in the vocal cords.  

Treatment for vocal cord disorders

Vocal cord disorders caused by abuse or misuse are easily preventable. In addition, most disorders of the vocal cords can be reversed. Specific treatment for vocal cord disorders will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent and type of vocal cord disorder

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include any of the following:

  • Resting the voice

  • Eliminating the behavior that caused the vocal cord disorder

  • A referral to a speech-language pathologist who has specialized training in treating voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorders that affect communication

  • Medication

  • Surgery to remove growths

Specialties:

Swallowing Disorders, Voice Disorders

Locations:

Surgical Specialty Center (801) 587-8368

Julia K Ellerston, M.A., B.A.

Julia Ellerston completed her bachelor's degree, a double major in vocal music and communication disorders, and her master's degree in speech-language pathology at The University of Northern Iowa. She works full-time at The Voice Disorders Center. Julia has been a previously appointed an instructor in the Depart... Read More

Specialties:

Speech Pathology, Swallowing Disorders, Voice Disorders

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Daniel R. Houtz, M.A., CCC-SLP

Full-time speech pathologist and the clinical director of The Voice Disorders Center. He received his graduate degree at the University of Utah where he completed a thesis under the supervision of Dr. Nelson Roy. He has extensive experience in differential diagnosis and treatment of muscle tension dysphonia, par... Read More

Specialties:

Voice Disorders

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Katherine Kendall, M.D., FACS

Dr. Kendall earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego and her Doctor of Medicine degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She completed her residency in Otolaryngology at the University of California, Davis.
... Read More

Specialties:

General Otolaryngology ENT, Laryngeal Laser Surgery, Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Swallowing Disorders, Voice Disorders

Locations:

Redstone Health Center (435) 658-9262
Surgical Specialty Center (801) 587-8368

Nelson Roy, Ph.D.

Nelson Roy is a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, The University of Utah. He received his doctorate in communication disorders in 1997 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI. He completed his undergraduate and master’s degree education in Speech-Language Pathology at ... Read More

Specialties:

Voice Disorders

Locations:

Surgical Specialty Center (801) 587-8368

Marshall E. Smith, M.D., FACS

Dr. Marshall Smith is a professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. He is a board certified otolaryngologist and the medical director of the Voice Disorders Center. He completed his residency in Otolaryngology at UCLA and a fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngolgoy in Cincinnati. He is an NIH funded investig... Read More

Specialties:

Airway Disorders, Laryngeal Laser Surgery, Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Pediatric Otolaryngology, Vasculitis, Voice Disorders

Locations:

LDS Hospital (801) 408-4972
PCH Outpatient Services at Riverton (801) 662-1740
Pediatric ENT Clinic (801) 662-1740
Surgical Specialty Center (801) 587-8368
University Hospital (801) 587-8368

Kristine M. Tanner, Ph.D.

Kristine Tanner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at Brigham Young University, and holds Adjunct appointments in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Division of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery at The University of Utah. She consults at The Voice... Read More

Specialties:

Voice Disorders

Locations:

Surgical Specialty Center (801) 587-8368
Surgical Specialty Center
(Voice Disorders Center)
729 Arapeen Dr.
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Map
Appointments
(801) 587-8368 (UENT)
Patient Sings Again Thanks to Vocal Chord Surgery and Therapy

Patient Sings Again Thanks to Vocal Chord Surgery and Therapy

Lonnie Stevens loved to sing and was often complemented on her beautiful soprano voice until four years ago when congestion, inflammation, and swelling in her throat left her short of breath and unable to hold a tone. Singing became difficult and her high notes became squeaks. Over time, Lonnie’s speaking voice grew h...

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