Other Medical Conditions and Voice

Patients may experience problems with their voice due to a variety of other medical conditions and side effects from treatment.

Source: Barbara M. Wilson Arboleda, M.S., CCC-SLP

Cervical Spinal Surgery and Voice

During cervical spinal surgery, the most common approach is to enter through the front of the neck. In order to get to the spine, the surgeon must pull the larynx and its muscles and nerves to the sides. This can cause stretching of the nerves that control the voice. When this happens, there may be temporary or permanent damage to the nerves. Specialized evaluation by a voice team can ensure your best recovery and function following this kind of injury.

Parkinson’s Disease and Voice

Although Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disease, speech therapy is beneficial in treating the vocal symptoms. In particular, programs that increase the level of effort put into voicing and that help a person maintain a higher level of effort in speaking have been shown to improve voice in people with Parkinson’s Disease. A program we use at the Voice Laboratory is the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment program (LSVT LOUD).

Hypothyroidism and Voice

Thyroid gland function has an impact on many body systems, including the voice. In particular, hypothyroidism can cause a buildup of fluid in the larynx, referred to as myxedema. The symptoms of hypothyroidism in the voice include lowered pitch and hoarseness (though these may also be caused by other voice disorders). Once the thyroid condition is stabilized, these symptoms may be resolved.

Thyroid Surgery and Voice

The thyroid gland is found at the front of the neck, wrapping around the base and lower sides of the larynx. The nerves that control larynx/voice function run directly through the thyroid gland. These nerves can be stretched or cut in thyroid surgery, which can cause a voice disorder. A specialized voice team can assess the extent of the problem and develop a treatment plan for the best recovery of your voice function.

Asthma and Voice

Everything we breathe passes through the larynx and over the vocal folds. This includes the inhaled medications used to control asthma. At times, these substances can prove to be an irritant to the delicate covers of the vocal folds. This can negatively impact function, if swelling and redness occurs. Inhaled steroids can also result in the onset of a fungal (candida) infection in the larynx. The simultaneous use of a steroidal inhaler and antibiotics can make you more prone to the development of these kinds of infections. Treatment will be dependent upon the source of the difficulty. These may include finding different asthma medications to systemic antifungal treatments. Speech therapy may be useful for maximizing voice recovery.