As people age, so does their voicebox, often changing their voice quality. This change in voice due to age is called Presbyphonia.
The larynx physically changes as we lose muscle mass, coordination slows, and mucous membranes (e.g. vocal cords) become thin and dry, resulting in voice changes.
An aging voice can commonly cause:
Decreased ability to project your voice (needed when speaking at a meeting or placing an order at a drive-through). It can be harder to be heard in a loud or busy environment.
Less endurance – less words on a breath make it harder to say long sentences or tell stories without running out of breath
Change in pitch/tone – Men’s pitch can increase, women’s can decrease. Not a problem for many, but may your affect confidence
Note: If your voice tends to get a wet quality to it, that’s a sign of dysphagia (problems swallowing) and you should see your doctor for a referral to a Speech-Language Pathologist for a swallowing evaluation. Especially if you have a history of pneumonia.
Are the voice changes a problem? Isn’t it just “normal aging?”
Does your throat hurt from speaking?
Does your voice make it difficult to have a conversation in a busy restaurant?
Can your family hear you during dinner or a busy event?
If your voice is stopping you from living your life, then you can, and should, do something about it.
Simple Steps to Tackle Voice Aging
General vocal health strategies is a good starting point and can help some people. But research shows it’s much more effective when they are paired with an individualized speech therapy program.
See an ENT (otolaryngologist). An ENT can look at your vocal cords and see if there are any medical, neurological, or pharmacological reasons for your voice problems. If there are no other concerns, then options include speech therapy or surgery.
Speech therapy for your voice is often the next step. It is non-invasive and if the person is a good candidate, can be quite effective to help you improve your vocal cord function and regain your quality of life. Speech-Language Pathologists are trained in anatomy and the use (and misuse) of the larynx (voice box) and know how to help you achieve a strong, gentle voice without damaging or straining your vocal cords.
Speech therapy is a cost-effective option, often only requiring 6-8 treatment sessions if you are motivated and willing to practice.
How to know if you need voice treatment
It’s okay and normal for your voice quality to change as you get older. BUT, your vocal changes shouldn’t limit you.
If your voice limits your ability to….
…have your ideas heard at meetings
……socialize with your friends and family
……order at a restaurant…
…then contact a Speech Pathologist near you to see if speech therapy is right for your situation. Speech therapy can teach you to use your voice in a healthy way, so you can live your life without straining your vocal cords.