Woman with spasmodic dysphonia

Losing your voice can make you feel like you’ve lost a part of your identity. After all, speech is one of many ways that individuals connect and share ideas. Outside of normal overuse and illness, there’s one condition that can limit your ability to talk or sing: spasmodic dysphonia.


  1. What is spasmodic dysphonia?
  2. What are symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia?
  3. What causes spasmodic dysphonia?
  4. How can you treat spasmodic dysphonia?

What is spasmodic dysphonia?

Your throat contains a hollow area known as the larynx, which contains your vocal cords. The vocal cords are responsible for creating sound and speech by vibrating from the air passing from the lungs through the throat. However, when the larynx spasms, it can interrupt these sounds and strain your voice. This neurological voice disturbance is known as spasmodic dysphonia, and it appears in three versions:

  • Adductor spasmodic dysphonia: Involuntary spasms cause your vocal cords to close, creating a squeezed and choked voice quality
  • Abductor spasmodic dysphonia: Involuntary spasms cause your vocal cords to open, creating a breathy loss of voice
  • Mixed spasmodic dysphonia: Mixture of both symptoms

What are symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia?

Spasmodic dysphonia is predominantly characterized by breaks during speech, often mid-sentence. The voice may be hoarse or strained, and others may have difficulty speaking overall.

Dr. Terri Gerlach, a CEENTA voice and swallowing specialist who practices out of our SouthPark office, explains how this disorder can impact daily and special routines of patients. “This voice disorder can be devastating to patients as they find it very difficult to be understood in most normal speaking situations that we encounter. These patients find it most difficult to be understood on the phone, trying to order in a noisy restaurant or drive-through and especially in any public speaking situations. The singing voice can also be affected.”

What causes spasmodic dysphonia?

Dr. Gerlach goes into detail about the causes of spasmodic dysphonia. “It is believed to be caused by a lesion on the brain involving the basal ganglia, which is responsible for coordinating movement.” As additional causes are being researched, related literature points to extended respiratory infections or viruses as precipitating factors.

How can you treat spasmodic dysphonia?

The first part of treatment is the diagnostic stage. Your physician may refer you to an ENT specialist and a voice and swallowing specialist that works in tandem to examine your throat and vocal cords. From there, they may recommend a combined treatment plan that includes speech therapy and BOTOX injections.

For the latter, BOTOX injections, which are commonly used as a cosmetic treatment to tighten facial muscles, can actually relax the muscles in the larynx to provide more consistent vibrations with the vocal cords. This method can provide relief for months at a time with additional injections recommended afterward.

If you or someone you know is currently dealing with vocal interruptions, now is a good time to go to CEENTA. Our team of voice and swallowing specialists can evaluate many common vocal disorders that keep you from speaking or singing, including spasmodic dysphonia. Schedule your consultation with Dr. Gerlach in SouthPark today by calling 704-295-3000.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. To make an appointment with a CEENTA voice and swallowing specialist, you may schedule an appointment through myCEENTAchart or by calling 704-295-3000.


You may also be interested in

Singer using vocal tips and exercises
Vocal Tips from Vocal Experts

Have a performance coming up? Find out how to treat your voice before and after you sing with CEENTA.

Read More
Dr. Neela Rao on WSOC's The Daily Two to discuss her After Hours Aesthetic Event
After Hours Aesthetic Event | Neela Rao, MD on Daily Two

CEENTA facial plastic surgeon Neela Rao, MD, appeared on WSOC's The Daily Two on September 7th, 2023 to discuss her upcoming After Hours Aesthetic Event. 

Read More
Oculoplastic surgery like blepharoplasty can fix instances of ptosis and drooping eyelid
Why Oculoplastic Surgery at CEENTA Could Be Right for You

Conditions like drooping eyelids and ptosis may require the steady hands of a CEENTA oculoplastic surgeon in Charlotte.

Read More

Leave a Comment



Back to News
This website is optimized for more recent web browsers. Please consider these upgrade options: IE10+(IE10+, Chrome Chrome, Firefox Firefox.
 Schedule An Appointment