Vocal fold nodule
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|Vocal voice nodule|
|Classification and external resources|
A vocal cord nodule is a mass of tissue that grows on the vocal folds (vocal cords). Typically, this mass will appear on the junction of the anterior 1/3 and posterior 2/3 of the vocal fold, where contact is most forceful.
A vocal cord nodule reduces or obstructs the ability of the vocal folds to create the rapid changes in air pressure which generate human speech. Symptoms include hoarseness of speech, painful speech production, frequent vocal breaks, and reduced vocal range. Vocal fold nodules develop mostly in adult females, and children of both sexes.
The nodules appear as symmetrical swellings on both sides of the vocal cords. The cause of these formations are usually strenuous or abusive voice practices such as yelling and coughing. Those who use their voice constantly in a loud environment are susceptible.
Vocal cord nodules can certainly impair one's speaking and singing ability. They rarely harm one's general health. However, the psychological trauma of being diagnosed with nodules—a trauma affecting those especially whose professional success depends on consistently producing a rich and powerful vocal tone (e.g. singers, actors, litigation lawyers, broadcasters)—typically dwarfs the limited systemic and even otolaryngological effects.
Treatment, or voice rehabilitation, usually involves vocal training, speech therapy, and, occasionally, vocal rest. In rare cases, surgery may be required. Removal of vocal cord nodules is a relatively safe and minor surgery. However, those who sing professionally or otherwise should take serious consideration before having surgery as it can affect the ability to sustain notes, as well as alter the vocal range. Examples of this are Ryan Key, José José, and Julie Andrews, who lost much of their singing ability after undergoing vocal nodule surgery. However, a lot of the time the surgery is very successful and leads to a full recovery of the voice, as with the Icelandic singer Bjork. While the patient is subdued under general anesthesia, long thin scissors and scalpels are used to remove the nodules, or CO2 surgical lasers might be used which are very effective in such cases. The best preventive steps seem to be wrapped up in the study of vocology, the science and practice of voice habilitation.
Symptoms of vocal nodules include vocal fatigue and hoarseness or breathiness. Hoarseness or breathiness that lasts for more than two weeks may signal a voice disorder and should be followed up with an otolaryngologist.
- Blake Simpson, Clark Rosen, Hans Von Leden, Robert H. Ossoff (2008) Operative Techniques in Laryngology
- Vocal disorder support group (VoiceMatters.net)
- Vocal Disorders - Support and Information
- Voice therapy for adults: vocal nodules, voice strain - Caroline Bowen, PhD
- Voice therapy for children - Caroline Bowen, PhD