Persistent voice changes may indicate serious illness

Just like the fingerprint and the pupil of the eye, the voice of every human being is unique. It is through the voice that several personal characteristics are revealed, including emotions, personality style, social behavior, in addition to the identity itself. But the voice can also indicate health problems that need to be investigated. On World Voice Day, celebrated this Saturday (16), experts draw attention to the need for voice care.

“Many people think it’s normal to always be hoarse, but hoarseness is one of the main signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer. Hoarseness that persists for more than 15 days has to be evaluated by a doctor or speech therapist”, warns Thays Vaiano, vice-coordinator of the Voice Department of the Brazilian Society of Speech Therapy (SBFa).

Voice Day was a Brazilian initiative in 1999, led by otorhinolaryngologists, speech therapists and even pedagogues who deal with people with voice difficulties. Three years later, the date was incorporated into the calendar of other countries and became World Voice Day, every April 16th. In Brazil, it was Law nº 11.704/2008 that established the National Voice Day with the objective of making the population aware of vocal health.

Due to this date, the Sociedade Brasileira de Fonoaudiologia promotes an annual campaign, called Amigos da Voz, to educate the population about the most common problems and the main preventive measures to maintain vocal health and, based on it, guarantee the potential for Communication. How slogan your voice matters, the scientific entity seeks to emphasize that the voice is a fundamental instrument of expression and an element of representation in the achievement of minority rights. Artists such as Negra Li, Preta Gil, Majur and the journalist Maju Coutinho participate in the campaign, which mainly involves professionals in speech therapy, propagating messages of voice appreciation and guidance actions for lay people, at a national level.

Thays Vaiano explains voice disorders can have different factors and causes. One of them is behavioral. Some children or adults who tend to talk too loudly, for example, may develop a lump on the vocal cords, called corns. It is a common disorder in teachers, who teach for a long time and need to project their voice a lot to be heard. “They correspond to the group with the highest incidence of voice problems”, says the speech therapist. The good news is that, because it is behavioral, this type of disorder can be solved with changes in habits, based on a treatment guided by a professional.

Voice problems can be neurological in origin. Parkinson’s disease, for example, can trigger a vocal tremor and greatly impair voice quality. Other neurological problems can also cause this disorder.

Finally, organic voice disorders can occur as a result of some dysfunction. The disease associated with the lowest voice is laryngeal cancer. Every year, about 7,600 cases are diagnosed in Brazil, most of them men over 55 years old. The disease is associated with the continuous use of tobacco and alcohol. Depending on the location of the cancer in the larynx, one or both vocal cords must be removed, which severely compromises the quality of the voice, which can become permanently hoarse. In the most severe cases, which require the complete removal of the larynx, the patient begins to breathe through an open orifice at the height of the trachea, in the neck region.

Basic recommendations

According to speech therapist Thays Vaiano, one of the most basic recommendations for preventive care with the voice is hydration. “The vocal cords work well when they are well hydrated, so drinking water is always essential. It’s also important to avoid shouting and talking in noisy places, or talking for too long,” she points out. Food is also important. Some foods, such as citrus fruits and juices, coffee, excess alcohol, fried foods and sweets can cause gastroesophageal reflux. “This food leaves the stomach and can reach the vocal cords, which begin to receive acid, when they should only receive water, air and water vapor”, explains the specialist.

Check out the top tips to keep your voice healthy:

– Speak effortlessly and articulate words well;
– Maintain good body posture when speaking or singing;
– Stay hydrated;
– Sleep well;
– Have a healthy diet;
– Try to reduce the amount of speech during flu, allergic crises and menstrual period;
– Avoid talking for long periods, especially in noisy environments;
– Avoid alcohol and smoking.


Until around 5 years of age, it is not possible to distinguish whether a child’s voice is male or female, it is just a child’s voice. As they grow up, especially at puberty, voices become different for each gender. At this stage, the teenager’s voice tends to remain higher and the boys’ voice, due to hormonal influence, becomes deeper. This includes changes in the configuration of the larynx between boys and girls, with the vocal cords differing in terms of configuration and shape.

Over the years, at the most advanced stage of life, men tend to have a higher voice and women, on the contrary, may have a lower voice. It is, according to experts, a trend, not necessarily a rule. Aging also tends to compromise voice quality, as the respiratory capacity becomes more fragile in the elderly.

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