With normal aging comes changes in the body, and the vocal folds and other voice mechanisms are not excluded from this process. The muscles, laryngeal tissues, and folds shrink, thin, and stiffen, causing a change in the way your voice sounds and works. Many of my patients refer to this as their "old lady" voice.
Common Symptoms Include:
easily fatigued voice
running out of air when talking
poor pitch or volume control
feeling of strain when speaking
Women's voices tend to drop in pitch, especially after menopause, and men's voices tend to raise in pitch.
What should I do about it?
Your first visit should be a laryngology-trained ENT. They'll be able to rule out any other potential medical causes for your voice change as these symptoms often overlap with other conditions. Your ENT may suggest office procedures like botox for tremors, fillers to plump up your vocal folds to help them come together properly, and other surgical options depending on the concern.
Then a speech language pathologist that specializes in voice will assess your voice in a variety of ways. They can perform a videostrobscopy to see how your vocal folds move under a strobe light, an acoustic analysis of the sound of your voice when recorded, a behavioral evaluation to see quality of life and lifestyle impact the disorder has on you, and respiratory function testing. After the cause is narrowed, they have a range of treatment options to address all of the symptoms.
Leslie Wegner, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist and voice teacher who specializes in singing/professional voice, swallowing, accent modification, and AAC. She is the owner of North Texas Voice and Speech, a member of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Upper Airway Disorders, and is a proud Veteran musician of the US Army Band. Connect at www.ntxvoice.com, Instagram, and Facebook.