Muscle Tension Dysphonia

Continuing Better Speech and Hearing month, this week our speech-language pathologist Teri Burns shares some information with us on Muscle Tension Dysphonia, which is a common condition she treats. You can reach our office at 816-478-4200 if you or a loved one is in need of a voice evaluation.

What is Muscle Tension Dysphonia?

Muscle tension dysphonia (MTD) is one of the most common voice disorders.  MTD is a change in the sound or the feel of your voice due to excessive muscle tension in and around the voice box. This tension prevents the voice from working efficiently.

Primary MTD — In this type, the muscles in your neck are tense when you  use your voice, but there is no abnormality in the larynx (voice box).
Secondary MTD — In this type, there is an abnormality in the voice box that causes you to over-use other muscles to help produce your voice.

What are the most common symptoms of MTD?

Voice that sounds rough, hoarse, gravelly or raspy
Voice that sounds weak, breathy, airy or is only a whisper
Voice that sounds strained, pressed, squeezed, tight or tense
Voice that suddenly cuts out, breaks off, changes pitch or fades away
Voice that “gives out” or becomes weaker the longer the voice is used
Pitch that is too high or too low
Difficulty singing notes that used to be easy
Pain or tension in the throat when speaking or singing
Feeling like the throat is tired when speaking or singing

What can cause MTD? 

MTD can often begin without warning or explanation. It may be caused by excessive demand placed on your voice, irritants such as an upper respiratory infection, exposure to smoking or acid reflux. It can also be caused by stress.  It can, for example, develop with laryngitis and remain even after swelling of the vocal cords has gone.  Sometimes, more than one of these factors are present to cause MTD.

What can relieve MTD?

Treatment for muscle tension dysphonia primarily includes voice therapy with a Speech Pathologist to reduce throat tension and maximize vocal efficiency. You may also find benefit in complementary treatments such as massage or acupuncture.

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