By Sai Verano
World Voice Day at a Glance
April 16, 2010 is World Voice Day. This is when we celebrate the wonders of the human voice. Our voice is incredibly important as it is used to express our thoughts, ideas, concerns, and emotions. It is an intrinsic part of our daily lives, and yet we often take it for granted.
World Voice Day was established through efforts of otolaryngologists and speech-language pathologists from Brazil, the United States and Europe. On World Voice Day, physicians and other healthcare providers educate people on the importance of their voices, and provide information on proper voice care.
How do we celebrate World Voice Day
We should remember that every aspect of our lives needs our voice – our jobs, our social activities, our personal relationships, etc. We should also remember to care for our voice, making sure to drink water, avoid secondhand smoke and other toxic elements, and keep ourselves from over-using or abusing it.
Tips for investing in your voice’s future:
1. If you smoke, quit now. Also avoid secondhand smoke.
2. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
3. Try not to use your voice too long or too loudly.
4. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is injured or hoarse.
5. Avoid things that dehydrate the body, such as alcohol and caffeine.
6. Warm up your voice before prolonged or strenuous use, such as teaching or giving speeches.
7. Know when your voice is strained. Listen to it. If your voice has become weak, lower your speaking volume or avoid speaking for too long in order to let your vocal cords recover.
Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. Dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty when passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach.
How you swallow
Normally, people swallow hundreds of times a day to eat solids, drink liquids, and take in the normal saliva and mucus that the body produces. The process of swallowing has four stages.
The first stage is oral preparation, where food or liquid is manipulated and chewed in preparation for swallowing.
The second stage is the oral stage, where the tongue moves the food or liquid to the back of the mouth, starting the swallowing response.
The third stage is the pharyngeal stage, which begins as food or liquid is quickly passed through the pharynx (the region of the throat connecting the mouth with the esophagus) and into the esophagus or swallowing tube.
Finally, in the esophageal stage, the food or liquid passes through the esophagus into the stomach.
Although the first and second stages have some voluntary control, stages three and four occur by themselves, without conscious input.
What are the symptoms of swallowing disorders?
Symptoms of swallowing disorders may include:
· A feeling that food or liquid is sticking to the throat
· Discomfort in the throat or chest (when gastroesophageal reflux is present)
· A sensation of foreign body or “lump” in the throat
· Weight loss and inadequate nutrition due to prolonged or more significant problems with swallowing
· Coughing or choking caused by bits of food, liquid, or saliva not passing easily during swallowing, and being sucked into the lungs.
· A change in voice
Hoarseness is a general term which describes abnormal voice changes. When hoarse, the voice may sound breathy, raspy, strained or there may be changes in volume (loudness) or pitch (how high or low the voice’s tone is).
What are the causes of hoarseness?
Acute Laryngitis: There are many causes of hoarseness. Fortunately, most are not serious and tend to go away in a short period of time. The common causes are acute laryngitis, which usually occurs due to swelling from a common cold; and upper respiratory tract viral infection, or irritation caused by excessive voice use such as screaming at a sporting event or rock concert.
Vocal Polyps and Nodules: More prolonged hoarseness is usually due to using your voice either too much, too loudly, or improperly over extended periods of time. These habits can lead to vocal nodules (singer’s nodes), which are callous-like growths, or may lead to polyps of the vocal chords (more extensive swelling). Both of these are benign. Vocal nodules are common in children and adults who raise their voice in work or play.
Gastroesophageal Reflux: A common cause of hoarseness is gastroesophageal reflux, when stomach acid comes up the swallowing tube (esophagus) and irritates the vocal cords. Many patients with reflux-related changes of voice do not have symptoms of heartburn. Usually, the voice is worse in the morning and improves during the day. These people may have a sensation of a lump in their throat, mucus sticking in their throat or an excessive desire to clear their throat.
Smoking: Smoking is another cause of hoarseness. Since smoking is the major cause of throat cancer, if smokers are hoarse, they should see an otolaryngologist.
Other causes: Many unusual causes for hoarseness include allergies, thyroid problems, neurological disorders, trauma to the voice box and, occasionally, the normal menstrual cycle. Many people experience some hoarseness with advanced age.
When should yo see and otolaryngologist (ENT doctor)?
· Hoarseness lasting longer than two weeks, especially if you smoke
· Pain not from a cold or flu
· Coughing up blood
· Difficulty swallowing
· A lump in the neck
Press release from The Medical City