Apr 13, 2014 11:45 PM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Being able to communicate verbally is something most of us take for granted, but not people who suffer from voice disorders. University of Utah Health’s Katherine Kendall, MD, explains which professions pose the most risk for voice ailments and how people in those occupations can protect themselves.

Q. What are voice disorders?

A. Any condition that leads to abnormalities of voicing is considered to be a voice disorder. Examples include acute laryngitis, muscle tension dysphonia, vocal cord paralysis, laryngeal cancer and vocal fold nodules.

Q. Who is most susceptible to a voice injury?

A. Teachers are most at risk for developing a voice disorder. Call center workers, lawyers, Realtors, 911 dispatchers and anyone who uses his or her voice professionally is also at risk. Voice problems are more prevalent in females and in older individuals.

Q. What are symptoms of voice problems?

A. Common symptoms include hoarseness, strained or effortful talking and difficulty projecting.

Q. How can you protect yourself from a voice injury?

A. Here are five tips to keep your voice healthy and prevent injuries:

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Use optimal voicing techniques (don’t strain your voice, and use good breath support).
  3. Rest your voice when experiencing vocal fatigue.
  4. Avoid clearing your throat and coughing excessively.
  5. Use a microphone when addressing groups.

Q. When should you seek treatment?

A. If vocal changes occur in the absence of illness, persist more than two weeks and do not improve with voice rest, visit an otolaryngologist (otherwise known as an ear, nose and throat specialist) for an evaluation. He or she will look at your vocal folds and may evaluate the vibratory characteristics of them, then recommend appropriate treatment. If caught early enough, most voice disorders are treated successfully.

Think your voice could use a checkup? Contact the Voice Disorders Center at University of Utah Health. 

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