LEARN ALL ABOUT APHONIA: SYMPTOMS & TREATMENT
What is aphonia?
Aphonia is the inability to produce sounds, and unfortunately, it can be a pervasive problem. There may be a partial loss of voice causing hoarseness or complete loss of voice, leaving the person only able to whisper. Moreover, it can happen gradually or all of a sudden, depending on the particular case.
Vocal cords (larynx) allow us to speak; problems start when a person has lost his voice or when he is hoarse. Dysphonia (change of voice) and aphonia (loss of voice) describe these symptoms in medical terms. The larynx is responsible for producing sound vibrations; this happens when you speak because air moves through the folds in the larynx. The ability to produce sound effectively occurs when the vibration changes. The change occurs when there is swelling or congestion within the vocal cords. It is interesting how even the slightest changes in the anatomy of the vocal cords can affect the voice and cause changes, both good and bad. Inflammation of the larynx is the most common cause of voice loss.
Infection or voice breaking is also the result of inflammation of the larynx. One of the most constant causes of voice problems is the misuse of the voice, as this can cause the vocal folds to swell and become unable to vibrate as required for speech. Swelling of the vocal cords happens when an infection occurs in the larynx from viral and bacterial organisms that cause inflammation. Loss of voice may also be caused by severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis and upper respiratory tract infections.
The causes of loss of voice can be inflammation and various kinds of diseases of the nervous system. If the reason for the loss of voice is related to the condition of the nervous system, it means that there has been an interruption of the signals, the nerve impulses, between the larynx and the brain. Without these impulses, the vocal cords cannot open and close, thus preventing the ability to speak. Due to diseases that damage the vocal cords, such as myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular disorder), cerebral palsy, cerebrovascular infarction (stroke), aphonia can occur.
You may also lose your voice due to conditions that interfere with the normal function of the vocal cords. Voice loss can also be caused by nodules, tumors, benign or bony growths, or a large goiter. Malignant tumors of the oropharynx, thyroid, and larynx may interfere with normal vocal cord function due to their proximity to the larynx.
Rarely is the loss of voice associated with a medical emergency. If visual disturbances accompany your voice loss, weakness on one side of the body, or numbness, look for medical attention immediately or call 911. Likewise, seek emergency medical attention if the voice loss is persistent or causes even the slightest concern.
Loss of voice may be followed by other symptoms, which vary according to the underlying disorder, disease, or condition. Symptoms, which often affect the voice, may also affect other body systems.
Symptoms of inflammation that may occur along with voice loss
Voice loss can follow other symptoms that are related to inflammation, and these symptoms are:
Other symptoms that may occur along with the loss of voice
Loss of voice can follow other symptoms related to other body systems. Here are some signs that include:
- vision loss or changes in vision
- Difficulty swallowing
- A feeling of tightness in the throat
- Swelling or lumps in the throat
- Numbness on one side of the body
- Weakness on one side of the body
Severe signs that may cause a life-threatening condition.
It is possible that in some cases, voice loss is a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be investigated immediately as it may be an emergency. In this case, you should seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 if you or someone close to you has any of these life-threatening symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue
- Rapidly breathing or difficulty breathing
- Abnormal pupil size or non-reactivity to light
- Loss of vision or changes in vision
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Numbness on one side of the body
The inability of the vocal cords to function correctly often causes a loss of voice. Infection, inflammation, and swelling of the vocal cords are the most common causes that prevent the vibration necessary for speech. Other causes include obstructions in the vocal cord region and nervous system disorders. Obstacles can be benign or malignant and can occur in various locations, including the thyroid gland, throat, parathyroid glands, and larynx.
However, there are many causes, including:
- Conditions that affect the airway or vocal cords such as:
- Breathing problems
- Muscle tension dysphonia
- Acid reflux from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritants, such as air pollution or smoke
- Nodules, thickening, or polyps of the vocal cord
- Cancer of the larynx or thyroid, or removal of the larynx
- Laryngitis- caused by infections
- Diseases that affect the nerves and brain, such as Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Psychological conditions
Some of the things we do that increase the risk of aphonia are:
- Frequent talking or yelling
- Surgery on or around the larynx
Here are some questions that can help you diagnose the cause of voice loss
Your doctor will ask you several questions that are related to your voice loss to diagnose your condition. Those questions include:
- When did you lose your voice?
- Do you smoke?
- What medications are you taking?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
What are the potential complications of loss of voice?
If you do not treat aphonia, it can lead to severe complications and permanent damage because sometimes the loss of voice can be caused by severe diseases. Once you have been diagnosed and the cause of aphonia is determined, you must follow the treatment plan that you and your doctor specifically have developed for you to reduce the risk of possible complications. These complications may include:
- Permanent loss of voice
- Harmful side effects of voice loss treatment
- Progressive neurologic decline
- Spread of cancer
Can aphonia be prevented?
There are several things you can follow to avoid voice loss or to help alleviate it if it occurs:
- Avoid talking a lot or yelling
- Avoid whispering
- Don't smoke
- Limit alcohol consummation
- Limit exposure to irritants
- Learn proper voice projection techniques
The doctor will ask you some questions about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination to diagnose your condition.
Since the cause of your symptoms is not always clear, there is a possibility that you will be sent to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Their job is to examine the vocal cords further; this doctor may use an instrument called a laryngoscope. Other tests may check vocal cord function.
How is aphonia treated?
The treatments depend on the cause of the aphonia, but some of the principal methods of treatment are:
- Voice rest
- Drink a lot of liquid
- Medications for pain
- No smoking
If there is a specific cause for your voice loss, the main treatment methods are:
- Voice therapy
Natural treatment for aphonia
Stretch the muscles of the tongue
Although this exercise may sound strange to you, stretching the tongue is one of the main exercises for singers. The reason is that it is a necessary muscle for vocalization. This exercise is very effective, quick, and accessible. All you have to do is stick out your tongue, wrap it in a cotton handkerchief, and put it aside for a while. Stretching the tongue quickly relaxes the vocal cords, which is why this exercise is good.
Perform this exercise so that you pull your tongue out as if you want to pull it out of your mouth, but if you feel pain, pull with less force. The goal is not to hurt but to do the exercise carefully and slowly to relax the vocal cords by stretching the muscles of the tongue. If you have an episode of aphonia, repeat the procedure several times. If you work with your voice, this exercise can help you a lot.
Gargle with lemon, honey & oil
For this mixture, you need to mix half a glass of hot water, one tablespoonful of honey, one tablespoonful of olive oil, and half a lemon. This is an excellent and effective remedy for treating hoarseness and throat problems. It is very easy to use this natural remedy or drink it slowly or gargle before swallowing the mixture.
Propolis, the best of the natural remedies for hoarseness
This remedy is one of the most beneficial natural remedies for the throat. It effectively treats the throat due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. You can get it in herbal stores, and you need to take 4-5 drops per day to notice its effect. Bees make propolis from the resin of the trees, and it has similar health benefits as raw honey.
Onion and honey
This mixture may be strange, but it is very effective for loss of voice or hoarseness. Onion is highly recommended as a natural remedy for sore throat because of its antibiotic properties. Honey is also very beneficial for treating sore throat due to its natural antibacterial properties. These two things together are an ideal remedy for various acute aphonia. To prepare this mixture, all you need to do is chop the onion and mix it with two tablespoons of honey. You can start feeling a soothing effect in just a few minutes after taking a couple of tablespoons.
Ginger is very useful for a sore throat. It is one of the best natural remedies for your throat and voice; great for relieving pain, it acts as an anti-inflammatory and boosts your immunity. To prepare a mixture that will protect your throat, you will need a glass jar with a pot of honey, ginger root in small slices, and a lemon cut into slices and the juice of two lemons. Once you have mixed all the ingredients, you need to let the mixture sit for 48 hours. To feel the effect of this mixture, take one or two tablespoons of it every day in the morning.
Homeopathic Treatment for Aphonia
Depending on the symptoms as well as the changes in the vocal pattern, homeopathic remedies get selected for each individual. Symptoms like difficulty in speaking, hoarseness, shaky or weak voice, momentary loss of voice, strained or interrupted voice, etc. All of these symptoms can be effectively treated with homeopathy.
10 Tips for Throat and Vocal Chord Care
- Try not to raise your voice.
- Avoid dirty, as well as enclosed spaces.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep your mucous membranes hydrated so you can cough up mucus more easily without hurting yourself.
- See an allergist if you frequently struggle with hoarseness in the spring. You may have hay fever.
- Relax; when you sleep, your body builds muscle fibers, and your cells regenerate, taking care of your vocal cords and larynx.
- Try to breathe through your nose, and wear a scarf over the mouth when exercising to warm the air you breathe through your mouth.
- Avoid drinking very cold or hot drinks to prevent damage to the mucous membranes.
- Air conditioning, excessive heating, and dust can irritate your throat. It's good to use a humidifier, steamers, or cool air vaporizer.
- Do not drink alcohol in excessive quantities. Alcoholic drinks dry out and irritate the larynx.
Recovery depends on the cause of the disease, which is different for every case and determines how it is treated. In most cases, the sufferers retain their voice after treatment.