Overview

Treating Throat & Voice Disorders

Treating Throat & Voice Disorders

The Voice Disorders Center at University of Utah Health 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 & Services

Conditions

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

Services For Professional Singers

Singing Voice Services

If you are a singer or if your singing voice is of concern to you, our Singing Voice Specialist (SVS) will see you during the initial evaluation with the voice team. An SVS provides a separate focus from a singing coach or teacher. Singing voice specialists have expertise in the rehabilitation of singing voices, which is usually outside the scope of regular voice lessons. Our singing voice specialists have extensive experience and expertise in rehabilitating singers who have suffered laryngeal injury or muscular imbalances. 

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.

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Related Specialists

Lynn Maxfield, PhD

Lynn Maxfield has a PhD in voice pedagogy and an MA in voice performance from the University of Iowa. He worked as post-doctoral research fellow at the National Center for Voice and Speech in summer 2011.

Amanda Heller Stark, MS, CCC-SLP

Voice, Airway, & Swallowing Disorders Specialist

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Services For Professional Voice Users

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

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.