Often if children present with a hoarse/raspy vocal quality since early childhood, parents think this is “normal” since they have been speaking like that their entire life. However, this could be an indicator that something is structurally wrong in their vocal anatomy, and/or a sign of other difficulties (e.g. reflux, allergies, or respiratory issues). According to SpeechandVoiceCenter.com “A voice disorder may be characterized by hoarseness, vocal fatigue, raspiness, periodic loss of voice, or inappropriate pitch or loudness.” Reflux can be a cause of a hoarse vocal quality – so if your child experienced reflux during infancy and/or exhibited signs of discomfort during feeding, then that may be the cause.
Another common cause may be vocal nodules or polyps. In fact, about 40-80% of hoarseness in children are caused my nodules. According to ENTnet.org “Vocal cord nodules are also known as calluses of the vocal fold. They appear on both sides of the vocal cords, typically at the midpoint, and directly face each other. Like other calluses, these lesions often diminish or disappear when overuse of the area is stopped.” Whereas ” A vocal cord polyp typically occurs only on one side of the vocal cord and can occur in a variety of shapes and sizes. Depending upon the nature of the polyp, it can cause a wide range of voice disturbances.”
To alleviate symptoms associated – you should try and reduce vocally abusive behaviors. Or, management in diet or medication may suffice if reflux is the cause. This should be done in conjunction with voice therapy by a Speech Language Pathologist. Examples of vocally abusive behaviors are as follows (According to ASHA)
- tense muscles
- talking loudly
- drinking caffeine and alcohol (dries out the throat and vocal cords)
Therefore, voice disorders in children (and adults) are treatable. 🙂 make sure to contact your pediatrician and/or SLP to explore this further if you suspect you or your child has a voice disorder.