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Learn more about voice disorder

Your voice is the sound that air makes when it is forced out of your lungs and passes over your vocal cords. Vocal cords are the two folds of tissue inside your larynx, also called the voice box. The vibration of those cords is what produces speech. A person speaks anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 words per day. That’s a great reminder of how hard our vocal cords work over a lifetime!

Normally, using our voice is a natural, fluid, effortless process. But sometimes a complication comes along that keeps the vocal cords from vibrating properly, resulting in a noticeable change in vocal quality. You may have a voice disorder when you have some problem that impacts how your voice sounds and feels. Your voice may become quivery, hoarse or rough, strained or choppy, weak, whispery, breathy or simply too high or low in pitch. 

What causes this? A whole host of issues, ranging from growths (caused by illness, overuse or cancer), inflammation and swelling (due to medications, allergies, acid-reflux, exposure to certain chemicals, smoking), nerve problems (Parkinson’s disease, MS, Huntington's disease), hormones (disorders affecting thyroid, growth and male and female hormones), and vocal misuse (excessive yelling, talking, singing, forcing voice to speak outside of your natural pitch, coughing and even clearing the throat!). As a result, you could develop a voice disorder such as:

Vocal nodules: Sickness, injury and vocal abuse can all cause extra tissue to grow on your vocal cords, which stops them from working as they should. The most common of these is vocal nodules, which are caused by continued abuse of the larynx. Initially, soft, swollen spots appear, but with repeated abuse, callus-like nodules develop.

Vocal polyps: These swollen, stalk-like or blister-like growths on one or both vocal folds are often caused by a single vocally abusive event. Polyps are typically larger than nodules.

Vocal paralysis: One or both vocal cords are paralyzed, causing problems with voice quality, breathing and even swallowing. This can result from a viral infection that affects nerves, injury to a nerve during surgery, stroke or cancer.

Spasmodic dysphonia. This is a nerve problem that causes the vocal cords to spasm. So, while the voice may sometimes sound normal, at other times it will sound tight, quivery, jerky, or hoarse.

Reinke’s edema: Gastric reflux, hypothyroidism and, most significantly, smoking can all put you at risk for a chronic condition called Reinke’s edema, a white translucent fluid that collects in the gelatinous layer of the vocal cord located right underneath the outer cells of the vocal cord. This causes vocal cords to bulge, resulting in a voice that becomes abnormally low-pitched and hoarse. This condition will worsen for as long as you continue to smoke or abuse the voice.

When it comes to voice problems, people may tend to put off seeing a specialist, figuring it is just laryngitis or a cold and they can just walk it off (or maybe “talk” it off!). But if weeks have passed, and your voice still hasn’t returned to normal, it’s wise to seek help, as true voice disorders normally will only get worse without treatment.

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Learn more about voice disorder
Qualified therapists

Our dedicated team of speech-language pathologists are specially trained in speech therapy as it relates to cognitive-communication issues (how you listen, process, focus, remember, and communicate). We are also nationally certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, are nationally recognized by the Brain Injury Association of America and are Certified Brain Injury Specialists (CBIS). We are licensed to practice in both North Dakota and Minnesota. We believe every patient deserves the best treatment and support we can offer in every single contact and interaction with us.

Individual approach

We recognize that no two people have the same needs and that everyone has different learning styles. That’s why we like to call our approach “the Progressive way,” which means we will happily customize treatment plans to meet the unique needs of the individual and their family. We also believe in “the right fit” between patient and therapist, so will make every effort to match you with a clinician who connects with you, understands you, and utilizes a therapy style that is comfortable for you.

We are here to help

Depending on the goals you wish to accomplish and the learning pace that is most comfortable for you, we will arm you with the evidence-based strategies, proven skills and ample support you need to feel more organized, prepared and effective. Therapy strategies may range from recommendations for specific tools (such as timers or planners), one-on-one brainstorming and problem-solving to address concerns, therapeutic activities as well as computer trials or worksheets to help strengthen cognitive and executive functions like attention, memory, and planning.

Coaching with compassion

We know that working on cognitive-communication issues is hard work and that it can be easy to feel defeated or overwhelmed by the challenges of building a more efficient brain. However, you will not be in this alone. We are not just speech-language pathologists; we are fellow human beings who care about you, your journey, and your success. We don’t want an appointment to feel like you’ve been sent to the principal’s office. Instead, you’ll find a comfortable space where you’ll feel listened to and understood. And because humor makes everything more bearable, be prepared to laugh and joke a bit too!