Understanding Vocal Nodules: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Vocal nodules are a common voice disorder but can be a concerning issue for individuals who heavily rely on their voice, such as singers, coaches, public speakers, and teachers. These small, noncancerous growths on the vocal folds (cords) can impact voice quality and overall vocal health.
What Are Vocal Nodules?
Vocal nodules, also known as vocal folds nodules or singer’s nodes, are small, callous-like growths that develop on the vocal folds. They typically form due to excessive strain and impact of the vocal folds when producing voice. This can cause irritation and swelling over time. Nodules are bilateral, meaning they develop on both vocal folds at the point of impact. Nodules are diagnosed by Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) and treated by a speech pathologist and ENT team.
What Causes Vocal Nodules?
Vocal nodules are primarily caused by high vocal impact and potentially inefficient voicing habits. Factors that contribute to their development include:
Vocal Strain: Shouting, screaming, or talking loudly for extended periods can strain the vocal folds.
Poor Technique: Incorrect singing or speaking techniques can lead to added stress on the vocal folds.
Excessive Voice Use: Professionals like teachers and call centre employees who talk for extended durations without proper vocal rest may be at risk.
Recognizing the symptoms of vocal nodules is crucial for early treatment. Common symptoms include:
Hoarseness: The voice becomes raspy, breathy, and lacks clarity.
Vocal Fatigue: The voice tires easily, especially after prolonged use (you may even experience voice loss)
Pitch Changes: Difficulty reaching high or low notes when singing or the voice breaking when moving through it’s range.
Pain or Discomfort: Feeling of pain or discomfort while speaking or singing.
Throat Clearing: Frequent throat clearing or coughing (this can be due to irritation of the vocal fold tissue).
If you are concerned about any of these factors in your voice please reach out to an ENT doctor who can diagnose vocal nodules.
Treatment for Vocal Nodules
Addressing vocal nodules involves a combination of vocal rest, behavioural changes, and possibly medical intervention. Some important parts of treatment are:
Resting Your Voice: Give your vocal folds time to heal by limiting talking and avoiding activities that strain the voice.
Hydration: Drink plenty of water to keep the vocal folds hydrated and prevent excessive friction.
Voice Therapy: Work with a speech therapist with skills in this area who can guide you on efficient vocal technique and reduction of harmful behaviours.
Vocal Warm-ups: Before speaking or singing, engage in gentle warm-up exercises to prepare the vocal folds.
Avoid Irritants: Steer clear of smoke, alcohol, chemicals and other irritants that worsen the condition.
Modifying Speaking Habits: Speak at a comfortable pitch and volume. Avoid yelling and shouting.
Medical Evaluation: If symptoms persist, consult an ENT specialist for a thorough examination.
Surgery (Rare Cases): Surgical removal may be necessary if nodules don’t respond to conservative treatment.
Vocal nodules can be a challenge, but with the right approach, they can be effectively managed and even prevented. Remember that seeking professional guidance from an ENT specialist and speech pathologist is crucial for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment. By caring for your vocal folds and making conscious choices about how you use your voice, you can maintain vocal health for years to come.
See this link for more information https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Vocal-Cord-Nodules-and-Polyps/