The human voice is one of the most important aspects of human identity because it allows people to express themselves and communicate with others. Misuse of the voice, on the other hand, can result in serious consequences, such as hoarseness, laryngitis, and, in extreme circumstances, vocal paralysis.
There are various treatment techniques that can relieve strain in the larynx and keep a clear and healthy voice to prevent these side effects. It’s common to prefer voice surgery to voice treatment to cure a voice condition fast and easily, but therapy has been proven to be more beneficial over time. Voice therapy teaches individuals with voice problems to appropriate vocal habits, ensures a stronger voice for a longer period, and minimizes the risk of future voice disorders. Hence, in most cases, it is a safer and more effective alternative to voice surgery.
What are the Different Types of Voice Disorders?
A wide range of factors can contribute to voice disorders. They can be classified into the following categories:
Functional voice disorders: Speaking frequently and loudly might lead to functional voice issues. Some people communicate with too much power or stress without even realizing it. This could be due to a high level of stress or a habit of employing an unpleasant breathing method. Others may speak in a tone that is inappropriate for them.
Organic voice disorders: Changes in the larynx are the cause of organic voice problems. Physical alterations such as vocal nodules, on the other hand, can occur as a result of a functional voice disease. Another common organic voice issue is vocal cord paralysis, which can arise after thyroid surgery, for example. Smoking, inflammations, stroke, and laryngeal cancer are some of the other causes.
Psychogenic voice disorders: Psychogenic vocal disorders occur when a person’s voice becomes hoarse, cracked, or completely silent as a result of a traumatic incident, chronic stress, or a mental condition such as depression.
What Are the Types of Voice Therapy and Voice Therapy Exercises?
Treatment for voice disorders or voice therapy is generally categorized as physiologic voice therapy and symptomatic voice therapy. Physiologic voice therapy refers to treatments and voice therapy exercises that directly alter the physiology of one’s vocal mechanisms and aims to balance the three systems of voice production, which are respiration, phonation, and resonance.
Examples of physiologic voice therapy include:
- Accent Method
- Cup Bubble / Lax Vox
- Stretch and Flow Phonation
- Lee Silverman Voice Treatment
- Resonant Voice Therapy
- Phonation Resistance Training Exercise, to name a few.
On the other hand, symptomatic voice therapy is geared towards correcting irregular vocal symptoms. This may include lowering a pitch that is too high (and vice versa) or modifying a voice that is too loud or too soft. Symptomatic voice therapy uses voice therapy exercises that directly modify these symptoms. These techniques include:
- Chant Speech
- Auditory Masking
- Inhalation Phonation
- Glottal Fry
- Twang Therapy, among others.
Additionally, preparation is important before going into your voice therapy exercises to address specific vocal conditions. These preparations may include:
- Breathing exercises (exercising your diaphragm or learning to better synchronize your speaking and breathing)
- Relaxation activities to relieve tension
- Posture or movement exercises to improve posture
- Exercises for the mouth and jaw muscles, such as chewing movements or yawning and sighing on purpose
What is Vocal Hygiene?
Aside from voice therapy, vocal hygiene is another way to address voice conditions. Your speech-language pathologist will advise you on ways to improve the health and function of your voice, such as increasing hydration, reducing voice misuse or overuse, avoiding throat clearing and coughing, and working with your laryngologist to manage allergies, asthma, acid reflux, and other medical conditions that can affect your voice.
What is Voice Rest?
While voice rest is not the first line of treatment for most voice disorders, it can be helpful in some cases, such as acute laryngitis, following voice surgery, or in the case of vocal cord hemorrhage or bleeding. There are occasions when voice rest is advised to allow the vocal cords regularly to recuperate after an injury. A period of complete voice rest, usually one week, maybe recommended by your laryngologist. You can communicate during this time by writing, sending emails or texts, or utilizing a smartphone text-to-speech tool.
What Conditions Can Voice Therapy and Voice Therapy Exercises Help With?
Certain vocal lesions or laryngeal strain that cause hoarseness, breathiness, higher effort when speaking, vocal fatigue or pain, limited pitch range, and difficulties singing can be treated. Individuals with irritable larynx syndrome or paradoxical vocal fold motion can highly benefit from voice therapy.
Some conditions that affect one’s voice and can be helped with voice therapy and voice therapy exercises include:
- A traumatic injury to the vocal cord (also known as the vocal fold)
- Swelling of the vocal cords
- Nodules, polyps, or cysts in the vocal cords
- Paralysis of the vocal cords
- Atrophy of the vocal cords
- Dysphonia due to muscle tightness
- Dysphonia spasmodic
- Parkinson’s disease (Find out more about the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) and LSVT LOUD speech therapy for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.)
Frequently Asked Questions About Voice Therapy
Are Speech Therapy and Voice Therapy the Same?
Speech therapy is the umbrella term for a variety of therapies and services provided by a speech-language pathologist, which also includes voice therapy.
Who Provides Voice Therapy and Voice Therapy Exercises?
A licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) helps you through a series of breathing and vocal exercises in voice therapy to help you attain a healthy voice. The SLP will also work with you to develop particular techniques for keeping your voice healthy at work or at home.
Why Should You Pace Your Voice?
The amount, intensity, and contexts in which you use your voice are referred to as vocal pacing. Some people may need to use their voices more to improve their vocal conditioning, while others may find that using their voices worsens their hoarseness. If you have a vocal problem that worsens with overuse, finding a balance between voice use and voice rest daily is critical. This may entail refraining from speaking or singing for short periods (10 to 15 minutes) throughout the day to allow your vocal cords to recuperate from vibration.
If your job needs you to use your voice frequently, it’s equally crucial to let your voice rest for longer periods outside of work. Your vocal cords may be harmed more quickly and repaired more slowly if you don’t take these rests. The vocal pace is difficult yet important at times, and your speech pathologist will assist you to establish healthy routines.
Why is Voice Therapy Important?
For a variety of reasons, voice therapy is a safe and effective alternative to voice surgery, as it ensures a strong and healthy voice without the risk of surgical consequences. Voice therapy offers patients with voice issues a variety of therapeutic techniques to relieve strain in the larynx and preserve voice quality. Voice therapy also corrects improper vocal habits, which helps to prevent future voice issues.
Voice disorders are widespread in people of all ages, even if it’s just periodic hoarseness, and voice therapy safely repairs the vocal cords to improve the sound of the voice. It is particularly important for individuals working as musicians, teachers, public speakers, or coaches, who commonly develop vocal issues at some point. Voice therapy is useful in the treatment of voice abnormalities and in the development of a strong and healthy voice that can last a lifetime if properly maintained.