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Help, I am voiceless!
The voice can be defined as a set of sound vibrations produced by the vocal cords, two mucous folds of the larynx. In reality, it is a complex phenomenon, in which various organs are involved: the brain, which controls the movements of the larynx; the mouth, nasal cavities and pharynx, which serve as a sounding board for the sounds emitted; the palate, lips and tongue, which allow the joint; the lungs which, by expelling the air to a more or less strong pressure, determine the sound power.
Far from being a simple physiological phenomenon, the voice is also an integral part of our personality. It is in a sense our business card and helps us in dealing with those around us. On the other hand, it is enough to remain voiceless for a few days to realize its importance! This “asset”, as precious as it is fragile, can be affected by two types of ailments: aphonia, or total loss of voice, and dysphonia, or alteration of vocal emission. Mostly, these problems are due to inflammation of the vocal cords, the cause of which is a viral or microbial infection.
The main factors that promote aphonia or dysphonia include: vocal stress, typical for example of some professions (teachers, singers, speakers), climate changes and smoking.
Aphonia in details
A sudden drop or even the total loss of voice: these are hoarseness, in the first case, and aphonia, in the second. An abnormal change in the ability to make vocal sounds and speak normally, which can occur with different levels of severity and is usually associated with inflammation.
What are the causes for aphonia?
In general, the loss of voice is linked to a pathological process involving the larynx, the seat of our vocal cords. “In most cases of hoarseness or aphonia, the causes are related to trivial inflammatory states, such as flu, sore throat, pharyngitis or laryngitis. In these cases the vocal cords become inflamed, swollen and consequently the voice is lowered.
In the situations listed, hoarseness should pass in a few days, especially in the case of simple inflammations such as the flu, “if instead the aphonia or lowering of voice lasts over 15 days and in the absence of triggering inflammatory situations, then there could be a more important cause and it is good to contact a specialist immediately.
It could be for example a case of benign forms such as nodules, polyps and warts or in some cases the dysphonies could signal a prelude to the tumor of the larynx. So if the voice drops without particular causes, a visit to the otolaryngology is necessary especially for smokers.
The checkup of the vocal cords is carried out through an endoscopic examination with optical fibers: it slips through the nasal cavities, passes the palate and thus shows the vocal cords.
The term dysphonia refers in a broad sense to all the changes, qualitative or quantitative, borne by the voice.
Dysphonia can be temporary or chronic and have structural or functional origin. Organic reasons include laryngeal inflammation, congenital malformations, the presence of tumor formations or changes in one or more organs connected to the phonatory function (vocal cords, nose, mouth, tongue, pharynx, larynx, trachea ) and trauma. Functional reasons include excessive use of the voice and idiopathic dysphonia (without apparent cause). Dysphonia can be combined with a painful sensation or an annoyance while speaking.
In the presence of dysphonia it is essential, in order to resolve the condition, to reveal the root cause. Usually it can be said that, to facilitate a faster recovery from dysphonia, support can come from the elimination of non-virtuous behaviors such as the habit of smoking and consuming alcohol. Instead, good hydration and rest of the speech apparatus for at least two or three days (without speaking or whispering) are recommended.
Other causes of voice lowering
At the base of the lowering of voice, although being rarer, there are also other causes such as gastroesophageal reflux, inhalation of toxic or irritating substances for the respiratory tract, chronic cough and a distorted or excessive use of the voice (as in the case of singing, shouting or prolonged crying).
Prevention consists in eliminating, as far as possible, the favoring factors, while the therapy provides for the rest of the specific vocal and medicinal cords.
In homeopathy, Arnica is the remedy used in case of aphonia and hoarseness from excessive stress on the vocal cords. Arum triphyllum completes Arnica in subjects whose voice constantly changes timbre. Aconitum napellum treats the consequences of dry cold, Dulcamara those of humidity.
My name is Kim Jung-hoon and I am a medical student studying at the Yonsei University Faculty of Medicine in South Korea with the ultimate goal in specialization for Molecular Biology and Genetics.