Dysphonia is the medical term used to describe for when your voice is not sounding or working as it should. There are many different causes of dysphonia, ranging from things such as vocal cord paralysis to growths or lesions on a vocal cord. Sometimes dysphonia can exist even though the vocal cords are normal and healthy, if a nerve condition causes spasm of the vocal cords (spasmodic dysphonia) or muscle tension in the voicebox muscles keeps the vocal cords from vibrating smoothly.
Dysphonia Diagnosis and Treatment: What to Expect
Your treatment will begin with a thorough evaluation by a laryngologist and review of your medical history. A detailed voice history will help us to understand the impact of the voice difficulties on your professional and social lives, and also helps us to begin assessing the cause of your voice complaints. Our laryngologist will perform a stroboscopy, an examination of your vocal cords as they vibrate. It is a test performed only at specialized voice centers, which helps us understand your vocal cord function as we identify a cause for your dysphonia.
Depending on the results of stroboscopy, additional tests might be requested. These sometimes include CT scans, MRI scans, or Modified Barium Swallow evaluations.
Your dysphonia treatment will be based on your diagnosis, and your treatment plan will be individualized to you. This plan may include:
- Injection of a filler: Vocal cord injection augmentation can make a vocal cord thicker, and helps to correct voice problems that relate to incomplete vocal cord closure. Our laryngologists are specialists at in-office vocal cord injections, although sometimes a patient may need to have this procedure performed in the operating room.
- Botox™ injection: Botox™ can weaken muscles, and is injected into vocal cords if involuntary spasm or tremor of the vocal cords is interfering with voice production. This is an office procedure.
- Vocal cord surgery: If there is a growth on the vocal cords interfering with voice, then surgical removal of the growth can help to obtain diagnosis at the same time it helps to restore vocal cord function. Great care must be taken during vocal cord surgery (microlaryngeal phonosurgery) to help preserve normal vocal cord vibration next to the growth which is removed, so that voice improves as much as possible – our laryngologists are all specially-trained specialists in vocal cord surgery.
- Voice Therapy: Voice therapy can help you learn habits to keep your vocal cords healthy and can teach you approaches to using your muscles efficiently as you speak or sing.
- Medication: Sometimes, voice complaints are associated with infection, reflux, or allergy. When this is the case, prescription of antibiotics, reflux medication, or allergy medication may be helpful.