Spasmodic dysphonia is a rare speech disorder that affects how your voice sounds. It can make your voice suddenly sound breathy, strained or as if you’ve lost your voice. Spasmodic dysphonia symptoms may come and go. There’s no cure for it, but there are treatments, including medication and voice therapy.
Spasmodic dysphonia is a rare speech disorder that affects your vocal cords, making your voice change and sound different. Your voice may break, sound tight and strained or very breathy. Spasmodic dysphonia may make it hard for people to understand what you’re saying. It may make you feel anxious or uncomfortable when you’re talking to other people. Healthcare providers can’t cure spasmodic dysphonia, but they do have treatments that ease your symptoms.
Spasmodic dysphonia affects around 500,000 people in the U.S. Women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more likely to have this condition than men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB). It can start at any age, but spasmodic dysphonia usually begins between ages 30 and 60.
Any of these types may cause vocal tremor, which makes your voice sound shaky.
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Spasmodic dysphonia changes how your voice works and sounds. Its symptoms develop gradually. People with spasmodic dysphonia describe their voices as sounding:
The problem makes the muscles in your larynx (voice box), including your vocal cords, go into spasms. The spasms may make your vocal cords get very tight, making your voice sound strained. When your vocal cords come apart, your voice sounds breathy. Experts don’t know what triggers these spasms.
Healthcare providers can’t cure spasmodic dysphonia, but there are treatments to ease vocal cord spasms that affect your voice. Treatments may include:
You can also use technology that makes your voice sound louder or translates typed text into speech.
Spasmodic dysphonia is a chronic, lifelong condition. Your symptoms may come back even after you have successful treatment.
Spasmodic dysphonia is a chronic condition that affects the way you sound. Severe spasmodic dysphonia may affect your ability to communicate. Here are some suggestions that may help you to live with it:
Contact your healthcare provider when you notice your voice changing more frequently than usual.
You may want to ask the following questions:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Spasmodic dysphonia affects how your voice sounds. It may make your voice sound breathy, strained or raspy. The changes may come and go, so you can’t predict when your voice will suddenly sound very different. If you have this condition, you may feel uncomfortable or anxious about using your voice to communicate. Unfortunately, spasmodic dysphonia is a chronic condition that healthcare providers can’t cure. They can, however, help you with medication, therapy and other steps that may make your voice changes less noticeable.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/05/2023.
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