As the throat ages, a number of changes can occur which can make it difficult for individuals to produce voice or swallow normally.

Aging Voice-Voice and Swallowing Doctor - Sunil Verma MD
Aging Voice-Voice and Swallowing Doctor - Sunil Verma MD

The human vocal fold is a layered structure, with each layer playing an important role in the production of sound. 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.

old-Voice and Swallowing Doctor - Sunil Verma MDSymptoms 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

The nerves which control the vocal folds may become less efficient. Vocal fold motion is due to a complex network of nerves which innervate, or power, the vocal folds. 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.

Dr-Verma - Voice and Swallowing Doctor - Sunil Verma MD is an online resource for patients and physicians to learn more about common voice, swallowing, breathing and throat disorders. Throat complaints, from cough to cancer, are a common reason for patients to seek medical treatment. This website developed as a result of Dr. Sunil Verma's passions: that of education, patient care, and interest in technology.

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