There are many types of voice disorders and many causes. A voice disorder is usually noted by a change in the voice quality such as chronic hoarseness, roughness, breathiness, or pain in the throat. If an individual has chronic hoarseness or vocal change for more than 2 weeks, he/she should contact their health care professional, a physician, or a speech-language pathologist.
Laryngectomy is the removal of the larynx (the voice box) from the neck, due to laryngeal cancer or trauma to the larynx from another source. Prior to surgery, the larynx connects the mouth and nose with the lungs and houses the vocal folds used for speech. During a complete laryngectomy, the larynx is removed and the airway is re-directed from the lungs to a hole in the neck called a stoma. Following the surgery, the person must use a new way to breathe and a new source of sound.
You may hear your healthcare worker or speech-language pathologist refer to your swallowing disorder as dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh). Dysphagia is the technical term for impaired ability to move food from the mouth to the stomach. During a normal swallow, food is put into the mouth, chewed thoroughly, then pushed to the back of the mouth by the tongue. The food then leaves the mouth and enters the pharynx (a common pathway for food and air), where the brain triggers an involuntary swallow reflex (pharyngeal swallow).
A series of muscle contractions push the food through the pharynx and close off the airway (trachea) so no food enters it. This part of the swallow lasts less than a second, so timing is very important. The food then enters the esophagus (food tube) and muscle contractions push the food down into the stomach. Breakdown anywhere along this pathway can result in swallowing difficulty.
Aphasia is an acquired language disorder that is caused by damage to the language centers of the brain. Various types of aphasia exist and the damage can be caused by numerous factors. Injury to the language centers of the brain is most commonly caused by stroke, but can also be caused by blows to the head, gunshot/knife wounds, brain tumor, and other sources of traumatic brain injury.
Most people, especially those who are right-hand dominant (right-handed), will acquire aphasia if they receive brain injury to the left side of the brain. However, for some people, the right side of the brain houses the language centers; therefore, right side damage may also result in aphasia. Individuals who have acquired aphasia may have been able to read, write, speak, and listen very effectively before injury to their brain, and are now limited in their ability to do so.
Motor speech disorders are usually caused by stroke or trauma to the brain that results in impaired ability to produce speech because of damage to the areas that control muscles used for speech. There are 2 major types of motor speech disorders: dysarthria and apraxia.
Dysarthria is impaired muscle control resulting in impaired speech production (muscle weakness or paralysis). Many types of dysarthria exist. Apraxia is impaired ability to smoothly coordinate the muscle movements for speech (muscle coordination impairment).
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