What is Vocal Nodule?
A vocal nodule, also known as a vocal fold nodule or a vocal cord nodule, is a hard, rough but non-cancerous and benign growth on the vocal cord. The size of a vocal nodule can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a pea. Vocal nodules can change the way your voice sounds.
Vocal folds are located inside your larynx or the voice box. As you talk, air moves from the lungs through the vocal folds to your mouth, thus making your vocal folds vibrate. This vibration caused in the vocal folds produces sound, and only then is your speech audible.
If you have vocal nodules or vocal polyps in your vocal folds, they would act as a barrier, hence affecting and distorting the natural vibration of the folds or even make them really hard to vibrate. This results in abnormal voice changes and other voice problems.
What’s the Difference Between Vocal Nodules and Vocal Polyps?
Vocal nodules are generally bilaterally symmetrical white masses which are formed at the midpoint of the vocal folds. These are benign or non-cancerous. However, they can cause abnormal voice changes. On overusing your voice or using it in the wrong way, your vocal folds might swell. These swollen spots might become stiffer and larger if you continue to abuse your voice, thus forming a callous (a thickened or a hardened part of the skin or soft tissue). A callous is formed in an area of the skin or tissue which is subject to continuous friction.
Polyps are bigger than nodules and they may look like a swollen bump or a spot or even a long growth. They can form on one or both of the vocal folds. To tell the difference between the two in a simple way is to think of a vocal nodule as a callous, and a vocal polyp as a blister.
Signs that You Might Have Vocal Nodules or Polyps
Check out for these signs and take an action –
- A rough and scratchy voice
- Having the sensation of lump or swelling in the throat
- A harsh-sounding voice
- Neck pain
- Shooting pain from ear to ear
- Having difficulty while changing your pitch
- Voice and body tiredness
- Difficulty singing at high notes
- Unable to talk for long
How does it Develop?
As already mentioned, most of the cases of vocal nodules occur due to voice misuse. If this vocal abuse continues for a long time, then you might develop vocal polyps. However, polyps can occur on a single incident as well – such as yelling at a concert or while teaching in a large classroom setting.
Smokers beware because smoking cigarettes for a long time might give rise to vocal polyps, as a result leading to various voice problems. To sum up, some of the factors causing vocal nodules, include –
- Regular smoking
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Vocal misuse causing muscle straining
- Thyroid problems (hypothyroidism)
- Acid reflux
- Side effects from medication
Who is Affected?
Vocal nodules can occur to anybody – including children. However, studies show that women in between the age of 20-50 years as well as young boys in their adolescence or early teenage are affected more than others. This probably has to do with the size of the larynx in these people.
Vocal nodules, however, are very common in singers and other voice professionals, as well as teachers and public speakers who spend long hours speaking to a large audience.
Why is Voice Therapy Required for Vocal Nodule Treatment?
The first and foremost vocal nodule treatment method starts from vocal rest. Sit back and relax. Take occasional breaks in between long speeches. Drink plenty of water to avoid drying up of your vocal folds. It might cause your voice to become hoarse and rough. Water acts as a lubricant to keep you going for long.
Consult your Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) without delay. He or she might advise you to take rest and avoid singing or speaking loudly for some days. Follow that. A few days’ rest will make you come back all the more powerful and energetic.
Your SLP might also teach you how to use your voice in the right way. He or she might suggest you certain vocal exercises to perform regularly. These would treat your voice problems. If you are a singer, join a good voice therapy session specially designed for vocal nodules treatment for singers. Apart from vocal exercises, maintaining a proper diet would also help treat your voice disorders.
You can also join voice therapy sessions at a recognised clinic for voice therapy in Kolkata, and get proper guidance from expert therapists. You will feel the difference within a few days if you follow the sessions thoroughly.
Also, check with your SLP what is causing your vocal nodules. If it is due to some other medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, allergies or acid reflux, get them treated first. If the voice problems persist, consult your Speech Language Pathologist and join the sessions for vocal therapy for nodules.