Voice Disorders


Voice disorders can arise from a variety of factors, resulting in alterations in one’s vocal sound. Changes in the quality, pitch, or loudness of your voice may occur.

Diagnosis and treatment are typically handled by specialists in ear, nose, and throat or by speech-language pathologists. Treatment approaches depend on the underlying cause and can include voice therapy, medication, injections, or surgical intervention.


Depending on the underlying cause, voice disorders can have a wide range of symptoms. The way your voice sounds could be:

  • Strangled
  • Breathy
  • Sounds like gurgling or wet
  • Rough, strained, raspy or hoarse
  • Very high or very low
  • Very loud or very soft
  • Inconsistent or shaky, with pauses or gaps


The larynx, also known as the voice box, comprises smooth coverings, muscles, and moist tissues. Positioned at the upper end of the windpipe (trachea) and the base of the tongue, it houses the vocal cords. These cords vibrate when air passes through, generating sound. Additionally, they aid in sealing the larynx during swallowing to prevent the inhalation of food or liquid.

If the vocal cords become swollen, inflamed, develop growths, or cannot move properly, they may not function correctly, leading to a voice disorder. Common voice disorders include:

  • Polyps, nodules, or cysts on the vocal cords
  • Precancerous and cancerous growths
  • Laryngitis
  • Spasmodic dysphonia, a condition impacting the voice due to neurological factors.
  • Paralysis or weakness of the vocal cords
  • White patches, also known as leukoplakia

Risk factors

A voice disorder can result from numerous factors, including:

  • Overuse or misuse of voice
  • Screaming
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Allergies
  • Aging
  • Throat dehydration
  • Thyroid problems
  • Throat cancer
  • Colds and upper respiratory infections
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Scarring from neck surgery or injuries to the front of the neck
  • Nervous system and brain conditions, such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease