What Are the Causes of Vocal Cord Damage?
Your voice is hoarse. Maybe it has a lower pitch. You might be a little breathy. Looks like it may be vocal cord damage.
Although overusing the vocal cords — perhaps by yelling, talking more than normal or singing to prepare for a performance — can be a major contributor to vocal changes, that’s not the only culprit.
Here are a few of the other common causes of vocal cord damage:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This digestive disease occurs when stomach acid or bile flows back through the esophagus. Acid reflux or heartburn can result, and you might also get a sore throat and notice some changes to the sound of your voice.
- Laryngitis. Due to infections or inflammation, the vocal cords can swell, and your voice might sound different or disappear completely. Laryngitis can be caused by a virus, acid reflux, allergies, exposure to irritants or vocal cord abuse.
- Vocal polyps. These tiny, non-cancerous growths can be linked to vocal-cord overuse, thyroid disease, smoking or exposure to chemical irritants.
- Vocal cord nodules. These growths, which are a bit like hard calluses, typically occur in pairs, with one popping up on each vocal cord where irritation is worst. They’re also known as singer’s, screamer’s or teacher’s nodules.
- Physical injuries. After experiences like intubation (putting a tube down the throat), the throat can become inflamed or bruised, and the voice might change its sound.
From our own Dr. Robert Pincus:
“Rarely one can develop cancerous tumors on the vocal cords. These are readily treated and almost always cured if caught early. While they are most common in smokers and drinkers, they can be found in anyone. It is recommended that anyone with hoarseness for more than 4 weeks have his or her vocal cords examined by their ear, nose and throat doctor.”
If you’re noticing a change in your voice, then be sure to contact a doctor. If left untreated, some vocal changes can become permanent. It’s also important to rule out the presence of another health issue that might be linked to any vocal cord damage.
At your check-up, your doc will determine the proper care based on your health history and the symptoms you show or describe. Youmight need to make certain vocal sounds for your doctor to see how your voice is being affected, and your physician might need to use a mirror or a small instrument with a light to look at your throat and vocal cords.
If you need a consultation, then just give us a call. We’ll help you find the right solution for you…and your voice.