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Voice & Swallowing

UT Health's board-certified ENT specialists provide complete ear services for all ages. From diagnosis, to medical and surgical treatments, our mission is to provide the highest quality care for all your ENT needs.

To learn more about commonly treated conditions and procedures, click the boxes below.

What is hoarseness?

Hoarseness, an abnormal change in your voice, is a common condition that’s often experienced in conjunction with a dry or scratchy throat.

If your voice is hoarse, you may have a raspy, weak, or airy quality to your voice that prevents you from making smooth vocal sounds.

What causes hoarseness or weak voice?

This symptom commonly stems from an issue with the vocal cords and may involve an inflamed larynx (voice box). This is known as laryngitis.

If you have persistent hoarseness lasting for more than 10 days, seek medical attention, as you may have a serious underlying medical condition.

Swallowing is a complex process that changes over time, and swallowing difficulty (dysphagia) can be associated with aging. Changes in the tongue, upper throat (pharynx), vocal cords and voice box (larynx), and lower throat (esophagus) occur with aging.

It has been estimated that more than 20 percent of individuals over the age of 50 experience dysphagia.Since the aging population is increasing, a significant number of individuals will experience changes in swallowing over time. By understanding normal, as well as abnormal, age-related changes, doctors and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who specialize in swallowing disorders can better counsel patients, and target treatment strategies.

What are the symptoms of swallowing difficulty?

When you have difficulty swallowing, you may be experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Increased effort to move food and liquids from the mouth into the upper throat (pharynx)
  • Increased effort or resistance moving food from the upper throat (pharynx) into the lower throat (esophagus)
  • Food getting stuck
  • Pills getting stuck
  • Regurgitation of food (can be right away with swallowing or delayed)
  • Coughing and/or choking with eating and drinking
  • Recurrent lung infections
  • Weight loss due to food avoidance

What is spasmodic dysphoria?

Spasmodic dysphonia is a voice disorder. It causes involuntary spasms in the muscles of the voice box or larynx.  This causes the voice to break, and have a tight, strained, or strangled sound.

Spasmodic dysphonia can cause problems ranging from trouble saying a word or two to being not able to talk at all.

Spasmodic dysphonia is a life-long condition. It most often affects women, particularly between the ages of 30 and 50.

There are 3 types of spasmodic dysphonia:

Adductor spasmodic dysphonia. This is the most common type. It causes sudden involuntary spasms that trigger the vocal cords to stiffen and slam closed. The spasms interfere with vibration of the vocal cords and with making sound. Stress can make spasms worse. Speech sounds are strained and full of effort. Spasms do not happen when whispering, laughing, singing, speaking at a high pitch, or speaking while breathing in.

Abductor spasmodic dysphonia. This type causes sudden involuntary spasms that trigger the vocal cords to open. Vibration can’t happen when cords are open so making sound is difficult. Also, the open position lets air escape during speech. Speech sounds are weak, quiet, and whispery. Spasms do not happen when laughing or singing.

Mixed spasmodic dysphonia. This is a mix of symptoms of both types of dysphonia.

To learn more about ear, nose and throat services or to schedule an appointment, call 903-747-4098.

Providers For Voice & Swallowing

Eric Flavill, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT), Head and Neck Surgery

Christopher A. Perro, MD, FACS
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT), Head and Neck Surgery, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery