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Understanding Your Dysphonia Diagnosis

Understanding Your Dysphonia Diagnosis

When you have an unexpected change to the pitch, loudness, or quality of your voice, it may be a voice disorder medically known as dysphonia

It can be sudden, or it might be a chronic condition where your voice differs substantially from what may be expected for your age, gender, culture, or region. Usually, a dysphonia diagnosis depends on these voice changes affecting your life. 

Dysphonia also has a broad definition, covering a range of conditions and causes. About 1 in 13 American adults have a voice problem at some point each year, though only a fraction of them seek treatment specifically for the problem.  

Most of the dysphonia cases we see at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates are of a type called muscle tension dysphonia (MTD). The labels, though, are unimportant when your voice is hoarse, husky, or breathy, or when you strain to create sounds. Let’s look at your dysphonia diagnosis in greater depth. 

Causes of dysphonia

It’s not alway clear why dysphonia occurs. Things like upper respiratory infections may contribute, but you won’t suffer severe dysphonia every time you catch a cold. Overuse is thought to be a common factor, though voice changes may happen only occasionally. 

Second-hand smoke and other environmental irritants may trigger dysphonia from time to time as well. 


Since dysphonia is a somewhat mysterious condition, it follows that diagnosis can be difficult. Often misdiagnosed as another condition, there’s no definitive way to examine or test for dysphonia. You need a complete assessment with our team of voice specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates. 

Two types of MTD

Muscle tension dysphonia can result from the muscles in your neck when there’s nothing wrong with your voice box. This is primary MTD. Secondary MTD develops when there’s some sort of voice box abnormality. 

Other types of dysphonia

Spasmodic dysphonia is a neurological condition that produces voice changes through muscle spasms. It’s a rare but treatable condition, even though medical science has no idea why the spasms occur. 

Functional dysphonia is even more mysterious, having no observable reasons for voice change. This type of the condition can sometimes associate with viral diseases like measles and mumps, and there may be a connection with high levels of stress in your life. 

While anything that changes your voice is technically dysphonia, conditions like vocal cord paralysis or growths on the vocal cords are usually described in those terms. 

When changes to your voice begin to impact daily living, contact the head and neck specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates. Call or click to schedule an appointment at our nearest office. We’re in Lawrence and Ottawa and standing by to help when dysphonia strikes.

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