Your voice is created by movements of muscles and air pressure causing oscillation of your vocal cords. The tongue and lips help to articulate the oscillating sound into words. Voice changes occur at all ages, most notably in adolescents, but changes can also occur as you age.
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Many different factors can cause your voice to change including high voice demands, yelling and frequent speaking. If you have experienced an unexpected change in your voice, scheduling an appointment with an otolaryngologist can help determine what caused the perceived changes.
“In voice evaluations we work to determine what aspects of your voice you don’t like, what caused the changes and how can we improve the voice,” says Dr. Jean Hermsen, McFarland Clinic Otolaryngologist. “We listen to voice quality, breathiness and pitch and discuss your history of voice use. We also take pictures of the vocal cords to view any changes.”
Hoarseness can be perceived as:
“These all can represent changes in the air pressure, glottic cycle and mucosa, for instance it could be stiff or swollen,” says Dr. Hermsen.
Protecting your voice can help limit the changes to your voice. Reduce irritation by quitting smoking, managing reflux and controlling post nasal drip. Increase the amount of water you drink and reduce the amount of caffeine.
“People often don’t realize that they abuse their voice. For instance, whispering puts more strain on the vocal chords. It’s better to reduce volume than whisper,” says Dr. Hermsen. “Working with a speech pathologist can help to correct bad habits and teach tips that prevent further abuse of the voice."