Dysphonia: Voice change, abnormal voice quality, and Singing Voice Problems

Dysphonia is the medical term for an abnormal voice or a change in voice quality. There are many different vocal symptoms that people with a voice disorder may experience, including:

Roughness, raspiness, hoarseness, a breathy or airy voice, a weak or quiet voice, poor vocal projection, vocal fatigue, breaks in the voice, a tight, strained or strangled voice, effortful voicing, abnormal vocal pitch, or pain when voicing or talking. Singers may also experience symptoms such as pitch breaks, a limit in their vocal range, vocal fatigue, pain with singing, breathiness or roughness of the voice.

There are many different conditions that cause voice problems, and these are generally classified as either structural problems or functional problems, although there is a great deal of overlap and interplay between disorders in these two categories.

The most common causes of voice change are acute viral laryngitis (a viral infection causing inflammation of the vocal folds) and acute phonotrauma (swelling of the vocal folds caused by a short period of voice overuse). The voice recovers relatively quickly in  these two conditions. If the voice change lasts for more than 3 weeks, it is important to have a thorough evaluation.

How do we evaluate dysphonia?

People with voice disorders are initially evaluated by taking a thorough medical history and by performing an examination of the larynx (voice box), including endoscopy. There are two types of endoscopy: standard endoscopy of the throat (laryngoscopy), and videostroboscopy.  Both procedures involve the passage of an endoscope (a slim tube with a camera on the end) through the nose or mouth using local anaesthetic to examine the larynx. Both are performed in the office.

Videostroboscopy is a specialised examination of the vocal folds (vocal cords) using an endoscope with a strobe light source. This special light source allows assessment of the vibration of the vocal folds. The examination is recorded for detailed review and for following progress. Dr Vokes has a stroboscope in his consultation rooms in Remuera and has extensive experience in the interpretation of this examination. David also performs videostroboscopy at the Voice Clinic at Auckland City Hospital.

Scroll to Top