What is our voice and how is it made?
Our voice is made by air from our lungs pushing through our voice box (also known as our larynx) towards our mouth. In the voice box, our vocal folds vibrate together to shape the air and turn it into different pitches, volumes and sounds, known as our voice.
What is a voice disorder and what does it mean for my child?
Voice disorders are known as ‘Dysphonia’. This is when the voice changes quality and becomes rough, strained, croaky and/or breathy. It can also be when there is difficulty sustaining voice for longer periods of time or when the voice is lost all together. Voice disorders can indicate voice misuse or issues with the structure of the voice box such as the presence of vocal nodules.
Left untreated, these voice issues can lead to difficulties using the voice successfully for speech. They can also cause vocal fold irritation and periods of voice loss. Voice disorders can also cause a child to have poor self-esteem, limiting them from engaging in social activities with peers.
What is a common cause voice disorders in children?
Poor vocal behaviours contributing to the development of voice disorders include:
- Overuse of the voice – persistent talking and/or singing
- Frequent grunting and growling behaviours
- Frequent shouting
- Frequent whispering
- Frequent coughing and throat clearing
- Some medications
What can I do as a parent?
Strategies you can use to support your child’s healthy voice:
- Be a good voice role model and model appropriate voice use
- Keep the air in your home clean and healthy.
Encourage your child to:
- Avoid shouting, taking loudly, whispering, coughing and throat clearing –- these are all very damaging to the voice box!
- Take rests when talking a lot. Our voice needs a break, too!
- Drink lots for water to keep the voice box nice and hydrated.
- Avoid caffeine (chocolate, coke energy drinks, tea, coffee). These can dry out the voice box.
Speech and language pathologists will be able to assess and diagnose your child’s voice difficulties. They usually do this in conjunction with an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist.