Voice Problems and How to Keep Your Voice Healthy
Vocal cords (also called vocal folds) are muscles that vibrate to create tones, much like a guitar string, as well as open and close to control the airflow in and out of the lungs. Just like any other muscle, vocal cords can be overused or strained, so it's important to pay attention when it feels like something might be wrong. The most common vocal injuries are nodules, polyps, and hemorrhaging. These are generally caused by infection, overuse, or trauma to the vocal cords. Some symptoms include hoarseness, soreness, and the inability to sustain the voice for more than a short period of time.
Many people think of singers and actors as being the only ones to suffer from voice problems, but any person whose profession depends on a healthy voice can be seriously affected. Teachers (especially music teachers), lawyers, broadcasters, and even doctors depend heavily on their voices to do their jobs well.
The Johns Hopkins Voice Center at GBMC is unique in that laryngologists and speech language pathologists work hand in hand with each patient to decide the best treatment options. Once the vocal folds have been visualized and a diagnosis has been made, the team is able to prescribe medication, therapy, potential surgery, or a combination of these.
Voice therapy is also a team effort between the patient and the therapist. Ms. Bidlack describes therapy as "educating patients about the voice, giving them some exercises to promote healing, and then helping them to keep their voice healthy for long term." The patient must be willing to commit to sessions for several weeks or more, but voice therapy can greatly improve a patient's condition and may help to avoid potential surgery.
During their conversation, Dr. Fletcher and Ms. Bidlack answered live and pre-submitted questions concerning the prevention of vocal injury, how other body issues may affect the voice, and general voice health.