As we age, our body ages as well, and this includes the larynx (voicebox and vocal cords) as well as quality of our voice.
Older voices have several describable characteristics including ”hoarse,” “raspy,” “weak and breathy” and “shaky,” to name a few. Some vocal quality changes are a normal part of aging but sometimes there are other factors.
As a population we are living longer, healthier and more productive lives; therefore, communicating and socializing is an important component to quality of life. Depending on the research and articles cited, presbyphonia can be seen in between 10-35% of older individuals.
Hearing loss also coexists with voice changes. This can impact not only quality of life but socialization, creating isolation, anxiety and depression if serious enough.
Retirees sometimes have duties such as volunteering and up to one third use of their voice for work. This illustrates the importance of good voice quality.
Patients who are healthy and physically fit have less obvious issues with their voice quality. Aging changes of the voicebox include vocal cords that start bowing, (not unlike someone who has bowed legs), have less contact as a result of the bowing which affects the voice quality.
Other changes include calcification of the laryngeal cartilage structure, degenerative changes of the joints that are part of the laryngeal structure as well as weakness of the muscles involved in speech reduction.
Other indirect factors include reduced blood flow due to hardening of the arteries and impaired metabolic and hormonal functions also can affect voice quality.
Physical conditions that we commonly called comorbidities that can affect the quality of the voice include poor nutrition and dehydration. Respiratory problems such as chronic lung disease, smoking and use of inhalers can affect the quality of the voice.
Acid reflux and indigestion reticulate fits poorly controlled have deleterious effects on the throat and voice quality. Certain medications sometimes can have side effects that will cause changes in the voice.
Voice changes and presbyphonia should be worked up and more serious problems such as throat cancer have to be ruled out.
Treatment options include not screaming, yelling or over-projecting the voice. If you are singing in church or other settings consider doing warmups and cool downs. How-to information is available on the internet.
Drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day ensuring adequate hydration and use of oral care products that do not contain lots of chemicals, alcohol will help.
Vocal exercises are another option and have proven to be quite helpful. In rare situations, surgery of the voicebox can be beneficial.
Denis W. Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.