What is a voice disorder?
The term voice disorder (dysphonia) is used to refer to an abnormal change in the speaking voice that deviates from the norm and/or limits the person's vocal capabilities.
Etiologically, a voice disorder can arise from a disease of the vocal organs or from functional impairments, for example, after surgery. Likewise, voice conditions can occur as part of the natural aging process.
Hoarseness is the symptom that almost all voice disorders have in common. Hoarseness is defined as a more or less pronounced, pathologically altered voice quality caused by changes in the vibratory patterns of the vocal folds.
Since emergent hoarseness can be an early symptom of a serious disease, every case of hoarseness lasting longer than three weeks needs to be examined by an ENT specialist.
This particularly applies to persons with known risk factors like smoking and drinking alcohol.
How does a voice disorder develop?
Voice disorders can develop from multifactorial causes. Either way, a noticeable impairment in the normal vibratory behavior of the vocal folds has happened. The modified acoustic properties cause the voice to undergo a change in quality, making it more rough or breathy.
This change in voice quality is frequently accompanied by reduced speaking endurance. The patients will complain about increased effort in producing voice and that they feel fatigued when speaking or singing for lengthier periods of time.
Classification of Voice Disorders
Basically, the different voice disorders are classified into organic, functional and psychogenic dysphonias.
In organic voice disorders, the changes in voice quality have a morphological cause, e.g. vocal cord paralysis, vocal cord nodules.
By contrast, functional voice disorders do not develop from organic causes.
Here, the cause of the disorder lies in the improper or unphysiological use of the voice.
Psychogenic dysphonias arise from stress or conflict situations that put the patient under extreme mental, physical or emotional pressure.
Moreover, voice disorders can also occur as part of the natural aging process.
At his Centers of Excellence for Voice Medicine in Berlin and Vienna, Dr. Wohlt treats all forms of voice disorders.
These educational presentations are intended to describe in greater detail those voice disorders that are treated or surgically managed on a regular basis and thereby reflect the routine work of Dr. Wohlt.