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Voice & Swallowing FAQ

How do voice and swallowing problems affect older people?

In addition to the physical distress they cause, these conditions can cause anxiety, depression and social withdrawal. Swallowing problems are of particular concern because they can lead to choking and pneumonia, both of which can be life-threatening.

Are there treatments for these problems?

Yes, and many of them are fairly simple. Although swallowing difficulties affect 14 percent of the senior population and voice problems affect 20 percent, recent studies show that many people don’t know help is available for these conditions.

What can be done about a weakening voice?

Many people experience voice changes as their vocal cords thin due to aging. Hoarseness, pitch variations, voice breaks and loss of vocal endurance can occur. It can take more effort to speak and become harder to make yourself heard. Treatment can be as easy as an injection to “bulk up” the vocal cords, which is done in the office.

What are the common signs of a swallowing problem?

Difficulty swallowing pills, coughing while eating and food getting stuck in the throat are red flags that a problem has developed. Because swallowing disorders can be dangerous, it’s important to seek a medical evaluation. Difficulties like these can be the result of a muscle tightening around the esophagus or the development of pouch-like sacs in the back of the throat. Both conditions can be corrected with minimally invasive surgery.

Why do I have to clear my throat constantly and feel as if I have a lump in my throat?

There are dozens of possible causes for these common complaints. Both problems warrant a thorough examination by a doctor to rule out any serious causes. Once the reason for the condition is identified, treatment can be initiated to resolve symptoms.

How can patients keep their throats healthy as they age?

Drink plenty of water, maintain overall body fitness, and avoid smoking, excessive caffeine and alcohol.

It’s also a good idea to strengthen your voice daily by singing along with the radio or reading aloud two or three times a day for 10 to 15 minutes.

Most of all, seek medical advice if you experience persistent swallowing or voice problems.

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