Dysphonia is a medical term that describes changes to the quality of your voice like hoarseness, reduced volume or uneven sounds. Our dedicated otolaryngologists (also called ear, nose and throat specialists), laryngologists (doctors specializing in the voice box) and speech-language pathologists work together to develop personalized therapies to treat dysphonia.
Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Dysphonia Care?
Cleveland Clinic’s fellowship-trained laryngologists have advanced training in treating dysphonia. Each of our speech-language pathologists has extra education in conditions impacting the voice and upper airway.
Dysphonia can have many causes. Our team brings together experts with different specialties to ensure accurate diagnosis. This means you get a customized treatment plan tailored to your needs. Meet our team.
Understanding how you use your voice each day is critical to diagnosing and treating dysphonia. We get to know you and include you in decisions about your treatment. We record diagnostic tests to show how you create sounds and we work with you to make needed changes.
Diagnosing Dysphonia at Cleveland Clinic
Our experts talk with you to learn more about when your symptoms began. Many different conditions can cause dysphonia. These include:
- Allergies such as hay fever or food allergies.
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
- Laryngeal cancer.
- Laryngitis (loss of voice), sometimes resulting from upper respiratory infection or sinusitis.
- Vocal cord dysfunction.
- Vocal cord lesions (nodules, polyps and cysts).
- Vocal cord paralysis.
Dysphonia can also happen when you overuse your voice, such as talking too loudly or speaking for long periods. Our experts will ask you about how you typically use your voice and your medical history. A laryngologist will examine you and may perform:
- Acoustic analysis: Our specialists use a microphone and computer software to analyze sounds made by your vocal cords (also called vocal folds). We analyze the breathiness, pitch and volume of your voice.
- High-definition endoscopic exam: We numb your nose and throat before inserting a flexible, lighted instrument (endoscope) through your nose to your throat. During this procedure, we examine the structure of your larynx (voice box) and vocal cords. Our specialists record the exam so we can review our findings with you.
- Videostroboscopy: Our experts use an endoscope, microphone and light to examine your vocal folds as you speak and make sounds. Using this technology, we create a video showing how your vocal folds vibrate. This exam also shows our experts if you have any growths or lesions on your vocal cords.
Who Treat Dysphonia
Dysphonia Treatment at Cleveland Clinic
Living with a raspy voice can be challenging. Our dysphonia experts design treatment and therapy plans to preserve and strengthen the quality of your voice. We offer:
Medical management of dysphonia
When inflammation or illness cause dysphonia, our experts may use medications or specialty therapies to treat you. We may prescribe:
- Corticosteroid pills.
- Inhaled corticosteroids.
- Medications to reduce stomach acid.
- Medications to thin mucus.
- Steroid injections.
We treat certain causes of dysphonia with injections, including:
- Glottic insufficiency: Dysphonia can happen when the vocal folds don’t close all the way. We inject medication to thicken the vocal folds and allow the airway to close.
- Spasmodic dysphonia: Some people have voice changes caused by a speech disorder that creates muscle spasms in the larynx (spasmodic dysphonia). Our specialists inject onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox®) to relax your muscles and restore your voice.
Surgery for dysphonia
When growths on the vocal cords or changes to their structure cause dysphonia, our skilled surgeons can help. Depending on your diagnosis, we may recommend:
- Removal of growths: Our specialists remove cysts, nodules and polyps during surgery. We use minimally invasive microlaryngoscopy — surgery done with a lighted magnified instrument — to treat benign (noncancerous) and cancerous lesions and tumors.
- Vocal cord implants (laryngoplasty): Surgeons make an incision in your neck to place ceramic or other materials to thicken the vocal cords. This thickening allows vocal cords to touch each other and make vibrations for improved sound.
- Vocal cord reinnervation: During surgery, our experts move nerves and vocal cords closer to each other to restore your ability to make sounds.
Voice therapy for dysphonia
Our speech-language pathologists create individualized voice therapy plans to strengthen muscles that support your voice. We help improve how air flows from your lungs and how your body makes sounds (vocal biomechanics).
If you need surgery, our speech therapists work with you before the procedure so you know what to expect. We also provide exercises after surgery (post-surgical voice rehabilitation) to help your voice heal.
Taking the Next Step
If you’re noticing changes in your voice that you suspect might be dysphonia, don’t hesitate to seek help. There’s a wide variety of treatments available that can help you sound as much like yourself as possible.
Learn more about how we diagnose and treat dysphonia at Cleveland Clinic. Call 216.444.8500 to request an appointment or schedule a virtual visit.
Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s dysphonia experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.
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