What is a Voice Disorder?

Photo by Bess Hamiti on Pexels.com

A voice disorder refers to any condition that affects the normal production, quality, pitch, loudness, or resonance of the voice, leading to difficulties in communication or discomfort when speaking. Voice disorders can result from various causes, including vocal misuse or abuse, vocal fold pathologies, neurological conditions, hormonal changes, and psychological factors.

Voice disorders can manifest in different ways, such as hoarseness, breathiness, pitch breaks, vocal fatigue, reduced vocal range, strained voice, or complete loss of voice. These conditions can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to communicate effectively in daily life, including speaking, singing, or professional voice use.

What are the typical voice disorders children have?

  1. Vocal nodules: Vocal nodules are small, benign growths on the vocal folds that typically result from vocal abuse or misuse, such as shouting, screaming, or excessive throat clearing. Vocal nodules can cause hoarseness, breathiness, and reduced vocal range in children.
  2. Vocal fold paralysis or paresis: Vocal fold paralysis or paresis occurs when one or both of the vocal folds are partially or completely immobile due to nerve damage. This can affect the normal vibration and movement of the vocal folds, leading to voice changes, such as breathiness, weak or strained voice, and pitch breaks.
  3. Muscle tension dysphonia: Muscle tension dysphonia is a voice disorder characterized by increased tension in the muscles surrounding the voice box, resulting in strained, effortful, or tight voice quality in children.
  4. Functional voice disorders: Functional voice disorders refer to voice problems that do not have an identifiable physical cause, but rather result from voice use patterns, vocal behaviors, or psychosocial factors. Examples include vocal abuse, vocal misuse, or psychogenic voice disorders.
  5. Congenital anomalies: Some children may be born with structural abnormalities of the larynx or vocal folds, which can affect voice quality. Examples include laryngeal webs, vocal fold cysts, or vocal fold clefts.
  6. Puberphonia: Puberphonia is a condition in which a child’s voice remains high-pitched or child-like even after puberty. It may be due to physiological or psychological factors and can cause social and communication difficulties for the child.

It’s important to note that voice disorders in children should be evaluated and managed by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) or a speech-language pathologist specializing in pediatric voice disorders. Treatment approaches may include voice therapy, vocal hygiene, and in some cases, medical or surgical interventions, depending on the underlying cause of the voice disorder.

Next week we will discuss the impact of mouth breathing! 

Israel Montano M.A., CCC-SLP