Can Your Voice Become Paralyzed?

Woman with a pain in her throat

Although there may be times you’ve wished such a thing could happen to an overly talkative co-worker, vocal cord paralysis can happen. Vocal cord paralysis occurs when the nerve impulses to your voice box (the larynx) become disrupted. This results in paralysis of the vocal cord muscles.

Vocal cord paralysis can affect your ability to speak and even breathe. That’s because your vocal cords, sometimes called vocal folds, do more than just produce sound. They also protect your airway by preventing food, drink, and even your saliva from entering your windpipe and causing you to choke.

Dr. Volpi can diagnose and treat vocal cord paralysis at New York ENT.

What are the symptoms of vocal cord paralysis?

Your vocal cords consist of two flexible bands of muscle tissue that are found at the entrance to the windpipe. When you speak, the bands come together and vibrate to make sound. The rest of the time, the vocal cords are relaxed in an open position. This allows you to breathe.

In most cases of vocal cord paralysis, only one vocal cord is paralyzed. Although rare, if both cords become paralyzed this is a serious condition, as you’ll have trouble breathing and swallowing.

Symptoms of vocal cord paralysis include:

  • A breathy quality to your voice
  • Hoarseness
  • Noisy breathing
  • Loss of vocal pitch
  • Choking or coughing while swallowing food, drink, or saliva
  • The need to take frequent breaths while speaking
  • Inability to speak loudly
  • Loss of your gag reflex
  • Ineffective coughing
  • Frequent throat clearing

Treating vocal cord paralysis

If Dr. Volpi diagnoses you as having vocal cord paralysis, he can follow two treatment strategies for improving the function of your vocal cords:

  • Voice therapy — Similar to physical therapy, voice therapy involves working with the muscles to recover. This is the typical first treatment option to regain nerve function.
  • Phonosurgery — This is surgery to reposition the vocal folds, improving function of the voice. This is usually a treatment option for those who have already tried voice therapy but haven’t found success with that approach.

If you’re noticing any of the above symptoms with your voice, please give us a call at New York ENT, (212) 873-6036, so Dr. Volpi can examine your throat.

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