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A voice disorder is a disturbance of pitch, loudness, or quality in relation to a person’s age, gender and cultural background. Voice disorders are traditionally divided into two different categories; organic voice disorders and functional voice disorders.

Organic voice disorders are further divided into two groups: structural and neurogenic. Structural voice disorders result from pathology or disease that affects the anatomy or physiology of the larynx and other areas of the vocal tract. Neurogenic voice disorders are caused by an impairment of the nervous system (e.g. Parkinson Disease, vocal fold paralysis, laryngeal dystonia, etc.).

Functional voice disorders are related to vocal abuse and/or misuse or psychogenic factors in the absence of an identifiable physical etiology. Misuse of the voice includes excessive talking without breaks, speaking too loudly, yelling, or using an unnatural pitch (purposefully using a deep or high voice). Abuse occurs with nonverbal vocal behavior such as excessive throat clearing, laughing, coughing, crying, smoking and inhalation of irritants. Misuse and abuse can cause physiological changes to the vocal folds, creating vocal nodules, polyps, contact ulcers and edema.

Disorders of vocal abuse and misuse are the most common and preventable of the types of voice disorders. Anyone who uses their voice excessively may develop a disorder related to vocal abuse or misuse. Teachers, lawyers, public speaker, cheerleaders, and professional voice users such as actors and singers often develop these types of voice disorders. Therapy for functional disorders involves identifying the types of vocal abuse and misuse and reducing or eliminating them.

Prior to any voice therapy, an individual must first be evaluated by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (Otolaryngologist) as it is important to rule out an organic etiology. Following an ENT evaluation, a voice assessment should be completed by a speech-language pathologist to develop appropriate therapy goals.

Please contact Speech Solutions to set up a free telephone consultation to discuss an assessment and possible treatment options. You may also be eligible to receive financial coverage through your extended health care insurance provider.