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In This Issue:
World Voice Day, an annual event devoted to the celebration of the human voice on April 16, encourages women and men to take care of this vital communication “tool.”
Imagine losing your voice and how difficult it would be to interact with friends, family and colleagues. Believe it or not, a myriad of conditions can impact your voice and your ability to speak.
Jayme Dowdall, MD, a laryngologist in BWH’s Division of Otolaryngology, has special expertise in addressing issues and conditions affecting the voice and is working to get the word out about vocal health.
“The voice is so much of who we are,” said Dowdall. “Laryngitis during a cold or a feeling of phlegm in the throat are really common symptoms that people tend to power through. It’s when they can’t communicate well with their family and friends and can’t perform their job that they come in for an appointment.”
The most basic definition of a voice problem is having a pitch, loudness or vocal quality that draws attention to itself rather than to what the speaker is saying. A voice problem may also include pain, discomfort or fatigue while speaking.
“Most commonly, there is swelling of the vocal cords, excess mucous, and benign lesions like nodules or polyps,” said Dowdall. “Very rarely is it something more serious like cancer.”
An effective tool for diagnosing voice conditions, laryngeal videostroboscopy (LVS) provides a “slow-motion” view of the vocal folds as they vibrate. LVS assesses factors that may contribute to voice problems and assists in detecting and differentiating lesions, as well as describing muscle movement patterns and the vibratory characteristics of the vocal folds. This can facilitate a more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
There are steps you can take to ensure better vocal health on a daily basis.
“Keep well hydrated, conserve your voice for the things you enjoy and avoid hot or spicy foods, which will help prevent reflux that can irritate the larynx,” Dowdall said. “If your voice has been abnormal for two weeks or more, you should bring this to the attention of your health care provider.”