A person’s voice serves as their vocal signature. In many social situations, it defines our interactions with the people around us. When our voice fails to work for us, it can result in unintended social isolation and poor performance. Studies have shown that up to 30% of Americans suffer from a voice problem at some point in their lives. Up to 28 million Americans are affected daily in their work activities. It is for this reason that voice problems should not be ignored, especially those that persist for greater than 2 weeks.
The first step in managing a voice problem is a formal evaluation by an otolaryngologist (ENT). A laryngologist, a subspecialist otolaryngologist, is a physician who is especially trained to deal with voice and airway issues. The evaluation consists of a routine head and neck exam and a special video exam of the vocal cords known as a videostroboscopy. The video exam takes very close images of the vocal cords and allows the physician to see their function in slow motion. South Florida ENT is fortunate to have the only fully high definition videostroboscopy system in South Florida, which allows for the most detailed and comprehensive examination of the voicebox. The videostrobe can help identify very subtle changes in the vocal cords that may adversely impact a patient’s voice.
Voice problems vary widely in their cause. At times, it may be related to a compensatory behavior to changes following a cold or the effect of laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR or “silent reflux). These reasons can often be treated with medicine or voice therapy. More insidious causes, such as nodules, polyps, or even certain laryngeal cancers, may require surgery. A laryngologist is skilled in performing minimally invasive surgery to remove only the disease while preserving the normal vocal cord for the best vocal outcome. Some procedures, such as vocal fold injections, can be performed in the office to avoid lost time at work or with friends.Voice therapy, performed by a licensed speech language pathologist (SLP), may be used as an additional treatment following surgery to encourage the best vocal habits and prevent recurrence of the underlying problem.
The good news is that many patients do well and are able to regain their previous vocal function. By working with a laryngologist and a voice therapist, many patients find their voice is better than when they started, and they are now more eager to engage both socially and professionally. If you should find that you are not happy with your voice, make an appointment today at one of our convenient locations.