The voice plays an important role in communicating at work, at home, and in social situations. A wide variety of things can cause a change in your voice and can present as hoarseness, an increased effort to speak, or diminished strength of your voice. Any change in your voice lasting more than three weeks should be investigated and you should be examined by your doctor or an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist.
Complete care of the voice starts with careful use of your voice and maintaining good hydration and vocal habits. When there is a problem, treatment may include added hydration, voice rest, voice rehabilitation therapy, medication, or in some cases, surgery, often followed by voice therapy. Voice therapy is conducted by a certified and licensed speech language pathologist working with your ENT specialist using a team-based approach. Voice centers around the United States and abroad specialize in comprehensive care of your voice.
While seeing more than one doctor and/or therapist during one visit may sound unusual, it is becoming more common across several kinds of care settings. The benefits of receiving treatment from a voice care team can include needing fewer visits1, improved treatment outcomes2, and reduced need for surgery for non-cancerous voice problems3.
The core members of a voice care team are generally an ENT specialist with training in caring for the voice and a speech language pathologist with expertise in improving the voice. Many teams also have specialized singing and speaking voice therapists who have additional experience and expertise in caring for professional voice users.
Many, but not all, voice care teams work together in one practice and your visit will typically include a thorough examination of the head and neck, an examination of your vocal cords and voice box with a camera that allows visualization of your entire throat, and a comprehensive voice evaluation with a speech language pathologist. This evaluation gives your doctor critical information about the cause of your voice problem and results in a personalized treatment plan, which may include medication(s), voice therapy, surgery, or some combination of treatments4,5.
1. Litts, JK, Gartner‐Schmidt, JL, Clary, MS, Gillespie, AI (2015), Impact of laryngologist and speech pathologist coassessment on outcomes and billing revenue. The Laryngoscope, 125: 2139-2142. https://doi.org/10.1002/lary.25349
2. Starmer HM, Liu Z, Akst LM, Gourin C. Attendance in voice therapy: can an interdisciplinary care model have an impact? Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol2014; 123: 117– 123
3. Cohen SM, Garrett CG. Utility of Voice Therapy in the Management of Vocal Fold Polyps and Cysts. Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. 2007;136(5):742-746. doi:10.1016/j.otohns.2006.12.009
4. Stachler RJ, Francis DO, Schwartz SR, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: Hoarseness (Dysphonia) (Update). Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. 2018;158(1_suppl): S1-S42. doi:10.1177/0194599817751030
5. Patel RR, Awan S, Barkmeier-Kraemer J, Courey M, Deliyski D, Eadie T, Paul D, Švec JG, Hillman R., Recommended Protocols for Instrumental Assessment of Voice: American Speech Language-Hearing Association Expert Panel to Develop a Protocol for Instrumental Assessment of Vocal Function American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 2014; 27: 887-905