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Voice Tips from Pamela » Nodules, Vocal Fatigue, Hoarseness
What are vocal cords?
Vocal cords (or folds) are two small muscles located within the larynx (voice box) that are responsible for voice production. They are found at about the level of the Adam's apple (thyroid cartilage) in the neck. The vocal cords are very small (about 18mm in length for males and 11mm in length for females).
How is voice/speech produced?
Most of the time the vocal cords lie apart, forming a "V" shaped opening or when you inhale. During speech or singing, the vocal cords come together and produce sound by vibrating as the air passes through them. Movement of the lips and tongue change this sound to create individual speech & sounds.
What are vocal cord nodules (Nodes)?
Vocal cord nodules are callous-like bumps on the vocal cords. They can form on one or both of the cords. They usually are located on the front 1/3 of the vocal cord, and range in size from a pinhead to a split pea. During normal speech, the vocal cords should press firmly together. However, if nodules are present the cords cannot close completely. Therefore, extra air escapes and the voice sounds hoarse and breathy as a result.
Are vocal cord nodules always the cause of a hoarse voice?
No. Vocal cord nodules are a common cause of persistent hoarsness, (Hoarseness is the name for the breathy, coarse, or harsh sounding speech produced from a variety of causes) It is important to find the cause of a hoarse voice. It is important to be evaluated by your doctor for any hoarseness present for more than four months.
What causes vocal cord nodules?
Any one or more of the following can contribute to the development of vocal cord nodules:
1) Misuse of the voice
2) Abuse of the voice (the most common cause of vocal nodules in children)
3) Other factors:
How do vocal cord nodules develop?
Vocal abuse and misuse cause the vocal cords to close with excessive force (i.e. bang together). This may result in the formation of vocal nodules at the point of maximum contact. As the nodules begin to form, a slight reddening can be noted on the margin of the cord. This reddening is soon followed by a localized swelling or thickening on the edge of the cord. Finally, a definite nodule or bump develops and becomes harder and more fibrotic with time, just like a callous can form on your hand if you use a shovel without gloves.
Is there any pain associated with the development of vocal cord nodules?
At no time during the development of the nodules is there pain associated. The most common symptom of the presence of nodules is the breathy and hoarse quality of the voice. If you have pain, you should consult your throat doctor immediately.
How are vocal cord nodules treated?
The treatment of vocal nodules usually includes voice, speech therapy. This is best performed for at least 6 months. (Developing some new good habits like Pilates, Yoga, Swimming, good diet, deep breathing, acupunture, massage, vitamins & supplements are highly recommended even for a healthy voice)
Why is surgical removal alone usually not recommended?
It is important to understand that unless the causes of the vocal cord nodules are eliminated (bad habits, incorrect singing technique), the vocal cord nodules will most likely return no matter how often they are surgically removed. It can also change the sound of your singing voice.
What is the purpose of voice therapy or vocal training?
The purpose of voice therapy is to reduce the vocal abuse or eliminate vocal misuse. It helps eliminate the causes of the nodules and teaches a more efficient ay to use the voice.