The Voice Box

The larynx is a remarkable organ that enables us to create sounds using air pressure from the lungs. It holds the vocal cords, which vibrate like stretched rubber bands when air passes across them.

When something goes amiss in the larynx – or in the nerves that control it – the voice can be adversely affected. Some of the warning signs of a serious voice disorder include:

  • Hoarseness (dysphonia)
  • A weak or “breathy” voice
  • Difficulty projecting
  • Voice loss
  • Breathing difficulties (stridor)
  • When the voice is easily fatigued or deteriorates quickly with use

Disorders of the larynx will typically lead to hoarseness (dysphonia) or breathing difficulties (stridor). Larynx problems can stem from lesions, both benign and cancerous; from neuorological disorders like vocal fold paralysis; medical illnesses; and from trauma – for example injury sustained during endotracheal intubation.

Voice problems can be associated with a variety of conditions, including:

  • Neurological problems, such as traumatic nerve damage or Parkinson's Disease
  • Non-neurological organic disorders, including cancer or injury
  • Misuse or abuse, including excessive yelling or loud talking
  • Voice damage related to infection or systemic diseases like diabetes
  • Voice damage as a side effect of prescription drug use, such as steroids for asthma

The Mass. Eye and Ear Laryngology Division is staffed and equipped to address the full spectrum of larynx problems, including:

  • Benign lesions: polyps, nodules, cysts, varices, papilloma, dysplasia, granulomas, sulcus, Reinke's Edema
  • Spasmodic dysphonia
  • Paralysis or paresis of one or both vocal folds
  • Trauma: webs, vocal fold fixation and airway narrowing (stenosis)

A respected authority on voice care, Mass. Eye and Ear is in demand by those who depend on the voice for their livelihoods, including singers, performers, broadcasters, teachers, doctors, lawmakers, lawyers and others.

To learn more about voice therapy at Mass. Eye and Ear, visit the Voice Laboratory.