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Aging Voice

Many individuals note that with age the voice changes making it more difficult to produce sound and to be understood by others. With age, the layers of the vocal fold thin preventing them from vibrating normally. Thinner vocal folds cause a "breathy" voice due to constant air escape, which in turn causes individuals to be tired at the end of a long conversation or tire easily in a loud environment.

Symptoms of aging voice problems may include:

  • Weak voice
  • Breathy voice
  • Tiring during conversation
  • Changes in pitch
  • Males speaking in a higher pitch, at times confused for a female voice

Research has shown that the nerves which control the vocal folds may become less efficient. With aging it has been noted that the number of neural connections decrease, reducing the efficiency of the vocal fold system.

Management of voice problems related to aging may include:

  • Voice therapy in which a trained speech language pathologist teaches an individual how to efficiently use the vocal folds to make sound. This does not change the structure of the vocal folds, but may help to optimize vocal fold function.
  • A vocal fold injection "bulks up" the vocal folds by adding a filler to the deep layer of the vocal folds, reversing the thinning process aging vocal folds undergo. This procedure can be performed in-office or in the operating room. This is not a permanent procedure and results may last from months to years.
  • Thyroplasty is a procedure performed in the operating room in which the vocal fold is physically moved closer to the opposing vocal fold to help produce sound. This also helps compensate for the thinning of the vocal folds.

Unforutnatley not all voice changes in the aging population are due to natural causes – concerning conditions such as laryngeal cancer or vocal fold paralysis are often misdiagnosed as "changes with aging," delaying necessary treatment.

If you have noticed voice changes it is important to be evaluated by a laryngologist. To make an appointment with Dr. Sunil Verma, Director of the Voice and Swallowing Center, or Dr. Roger Crumley please click here to request an appointment or call (714) 456-7017.