Muscle tension dysphonia, or voice strain caused by muscle tightness, can occur even when there is no damage to your vocal cords (also known as vocal folds). It’s often overlooked and left untreated. The Duke Voice Care Center team of laryngologists -- ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors with advanced training in voice disorders -- and highly trained speech pathologists diagnose your condition and help you learn to use your voice more comfortably in order to speak or sing without strain.
About Muscle Tension Dysphonia
If your voice is tired, your throat feels tight, or it hurts to talk, you may have muscle tension dysphonia, or voice strain caused muscle tightness. This common voice problem can occur even if your vocal cords are normal but the muscles in your throat are working inefficiently. You may not be using your breath to effectively energize your voice, or your throat muscles may be too tight when you speak. Muscle tension dysphonia can make your voice sound strained or hoarse and can make it uncomfortable to talk. It is common to experience muscle tension dysphonia along with another voice problem.
Muscle tension dysphonia can happen when you’ve been sick and developed a vocal cord injury, such as laryngitis or swelling of the vocal cords. Because of that injury, you may start relying on other muscles in your throat to speak. Even when your vocal cords have healed after the illness is over, you can get stuck in a pattern of relying on these muscles.
Other factors that may contribute to muscle tension dysphonia include excessive talking without breaks, screaming, talking loudly in noisy environments, or habitually speaking at a pitch that is too high or too low for you.
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Why Choose Duke
Often with muscle tension dysphonia, the vocal cords may appear normal, and only detailed examination using videolaryngostroboscopy can identify minor muscle inefficiencies. This test is typically only available at ENT clinics like the Duke Voice Care Center that specialize in voice disorders.
Skilled Voice Therapists
We are one of the few centers in the Southeast providing expert voice therapy, the treatment of choice for muscle tension dysphonia. Our team of speech pathologists has advanced training in voice problems and years of experience in providing relief for this condition.
Specialty Care for Singers and Professional Voice Performers
If you are one of the many singers affected by muscle tension dysphonia, you’ll benefit from the expertise of our clinical singing voice specialists.
If you have other medical conditions that may contribute to your voice strain -- such as allergies, asthma, or acid reflux -- we will work with your other providers throughout Duke Health to ensure you receive the best care from an integrated team.
Active Research to Advance Care
Our ongoing research into how voice problems affect how we feel about ourselves gives us insight into treating the whole range of voice disorders, including muscle tension dysphonia.
Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.