No matter who you are, it’s likely that you’ve experienced a voice problem at some point in your life. Rowdy football games, crowded parties, allergies and common colds can all put a strain on your vocal cords.
In fact, 1 in 13 people going to a primary doctor show symptoms of a voice problem, and half of these patients miss work because of voice-related complications. Unfortunately, these problems often go untreated. Primary doctors generally don’t ask about the voice, and many people don’t know that there are doctors who specialize in voice issues.
Should you see a specialist?
First, assess your symptoms. The most common symptom of a voice problem is hoarseness.
Others include sore throat, reduced voice capacity or endurance, chronic coughs, excessive throat-clearing and difficulty swallowing.
If you experience any of these symptoms frequently, you may suffer from a problem like vocal nodules, reflux disease, movement problems or polyps. A qualified voice specialist will be able to diagnose your voice problem and provide a treatment plan tailored to your lifestyle.
Tips for a healthy voice
To maintain a healthy voice, hydrate well: drink lots of water, and avoid or be moderate with alcohol, caffeine, sugar and carbonation. Don’t shout or stage-whisper. Wash your hands often, and keep hands away from your mouth and face. Most important, be aware of your body and rest when your voice needs it.
If you’re just feeling hoarse or experiencing a day or two of throat soreness because of a cold, resting your voice is often the best medicine. But if your symptoms continue for more than 2 weeks, or if you experience pain in your throat or sudden changes to your voice, you should call your doctor right away.
About Dr. Alexander
Ronda Alexander, MD serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. She obtained her MD degree at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York. After medical school, she went to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine for her Otorhinolaryngology residency. Dr. Alexander has also completed a one year fellowship in Laryngology and Neuro-laryngology at the New York Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders. Since coming to Texas, she has helped establish the Texas Voice Institute, a comprehensive program for the management for the diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases that affect the voice and swallowing. Her clinical interests include the evaluation of hoarseness, spasmodic dysphonia, vocal tremor, vocal cord paralysis, extra-esophageal reflux and swallowing disorders. She is specially trained to manage the unique needs of professional voice users. She also has interests in neuromuscular disorders of the head and neck, including tension and migraine headache.