Vocal abuse / misuse
What is vocal abuse / misuse?
Vocal abuse / misuse is use of the voice in specific ways that can contribute to or cause the development of voice box problems. Certain vocal abuse behaviors involve using inappropriate vocal components like loudness, pitch, speech rate, and phonation habits. Eventually, this leads to a sprain or strain of your voice resulting in injury to one or more of your vocal cords.
What are the signs and symptoms of vocal abuse / misuse?
Some signs of vocal misuse / abuse include:
- A raspy or hoarse voice
- A sudden deepening of pitch
- Loss of ability while singing to hit high notes
- Increasing effort of talking
- Throat discomfort or ache
- Frequent throat clearing
What are the causes of vocal abuse / misuse?
Vocal misuse / abuse occurs when your vocal cords are forced to come together too forcefully and it leads to hyperfunction of your laryngeal process. When habitual or repeated, this hyperfunction might contribute to strain of the voice box, maladaptive behavior and change of the voice box musculature.
Forceful behaviors linked with hyperfunction include loud talking or excessive shouting, like that of a factory worker trying to talk loudly over equipment noise or children shouting while playing on a playground.
Vocal noises refer to the non-speech laryngeal noises kids make while they play. The standard noises might include an abnormally loud or high pitch, and can include mimicking:
- A siren’s piercing scream
- Roaring of a truck, spaceship engine, motorcycle and car
- Different barks, howls or growls of animals
A common form of vocal misuse/abuse is habitual, incessant and nonproductive throat clearing. Breathy voice causes also includes excessive coughing, which is also a form of vocal abuse. Excessive talking, screaming, yelling, smoking, and inhaling irritants are all forms of vocal abuse/misuse.
What conditions can result from vocal abuse / misuse?
Some common vocal abuse/misuse disorders result in hyperfunctional voice conditions, which include:
- Vocal polyps
- Contact ulcers
- Vocal nodules
How is vocal abuse / misuse treated?
The following treatments may be considered:
Nasal allergies and excessive mucus production / post-nasal drip can cause frequent throat clearing. Treatments to reduce the amount of mucus and control allergies can help improve the overall condition.
Liquids, rest and voice therapy
Like other parts of your body, your vocal cords require regular fluids and rest. Specialists in speech pathology can show you ways to more efficiently use your voice through voice therapy, the amount of liquid to drink and how to clear your throat properly.
Depending on the cause of vocal abuse / misuse, certain medications can also be started to reduce gastroesophageal reflux, reduce inflammation or prevent the regrowth of blood vessels. You can take medicines orally, apply them topically or have them injected into your vocal cords during surgery.
Stopping smoking can improve your voice and even lower your risk of voice box cancers and other malignancies.
What are some surgical treatments for vocal abuse / misuse?
Treatments for vocal misuse or abuse, include:
Benign lesions (i.e. cysts, polyps and nodules) on your vocal cords might require surgical removal. The doctor can remove precancerous, noncancerous and cancerous lesions, which includes leukoplakia (white patches) and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis using carbon-dioxide laser surgery and or microsurgery.
These consist of purified botulinum toxin injections into the skin of your neck which helps reduce abnormal muscle movements or muscle spasms if you’re suffering from a specific neurological movement disorder that impacts your vocal muscles (spasmodic dysphonia).
By and large, treatments for vocal abuse / misuse are largely medical and conservative in nature. When complications result from vocal abuse / misuse, surgical treatments may be an option.