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Voice, Airway & Swallowing

Advanced Otolaryngology Treatment for Airway, Swallowing & Voice Disorders

University Hospitals’ highly trained experts in voice, airway and swallowing disorders employ advanced technology to diagnose and treat any speech disorders, breathing conditions or swallowing disorders. Many of our ear, nose and throat (ENT) physicians at University Hospitals are fellowship trained in laryngology, meaning they have received additional years of hands-on training in solving voice, airway and swallowing problems. Ranked 16th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, we offer the highest level of ENT expertise in Northeast Ohio.

Coming to UH means you will receive care from a multidisciplinary team with support from clinical experts from many different medical specialties. Our deep knowledge and experience will help us treat the causes behind your voice, airway or swallowing problems, not just the symptoms.

Advanced Treatments for Vocal Cord Nodules

Among our advanced treatments for voice and swallowing disorders is a pulsed-KTP laser, a minimally invasive procedure which allows UH physicians to remove lesions and nodules on a patient’s vocal cords. UH is also one of the few organizations in Northeast Ohio to have speech therapists and speech pathologists specialized in voice, which is especially beneficial for professionals that frequently speak or perform publicly.

Diagnosing and treating your voice, airway or swallowing issue, including many of our surgical procedures, can often occur at one of our convenient UH locations near your home.

Specialized Expertise for Voice Disorders or Swallowing Disorders

Diagnosing and treating a swallowing or voice disorder can be complex and it is important to see a specialist. Symptoms for a voice or swallowing disorder can include trouble speaking or eating, or frequently reoccurring hoarseness. These issues may be due to other health conditions, such as obesity, acid reflux, Parkinson’s disease or stroke.

At UH, we offer a full-range of diagnostic tests to pinpoint the cause of any voice, swallowing or airway problem. Based on the diagnostic results, our ENT experts may work with other clinical experts from specialties such as gastroenterology, pulmonary medicine, neurology, radiology, nutrition and surgery to design a care path that is right for you. With every patient, our specially trained nurses, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and dieticians work alongside our ENT doctors to help you fully understand your condition and to learn how to make lifestyle and dietary changes for a successful recovery and a speedy return to your daily life.

Individualized Voice and Swallowing Disorder Treatments

Our UH team of ENT specialists will design highly personalized treatment plans for you to meet your individual needs and goals. Plans may include medications, speech or occupational therapy, vocal cord surgery or a combination of all therapies.

These treatments may include:

  • Lifestyle changes: For voice and swallowing problems, sometimes small lifestyle changes can help reduce or eliminate voice problems such as drinking more water, reducing environmental pollutants, reduce yelling or resting your voice.
  • Medications: Some voice and swallowing disorders are caused, or partially caused, by a condition that can be treated with medicine. Examples include acid reflux disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and viral infections of the upper respiratory system, allergies and infections/inflammation of the esophagus.
  • Injections: Botox injections may help relax the muscles and restore normal speech if vocal cord spasms are the problem. Or, in some cases, injections of fat or other fillers into the vocal cords may help them close more completely. Botox injections may also help relax the muscles and restore normal swallowing function if esophageal spasms are the issue.
  • Speech Therapy: If you have a voice disorder, a speech language pathologist teaches you various techniques and exercises for improved breathing control, posture, vocal cord function and strength, as well as articulation. For swallowing disorders, working with a speech-language pathologist helps strengthen the tongue and throat muscles to better protect the airway and promote successful swallowing.

Advanced Surgical Treatments for Voice Disorders and Swallowing Disorders

Although many swallowing and voice disorders can be successfully minimized or eliminated through lifestyle changes, medications and speech therapy, sometimes surgery is required to repair damage or reconstruct the structures that are causing the problem. Many ear, nose and throat surgeries can now be done using minimally invasive endoscopic techniques in which the repairs are made by inserting instruments through the mouth rather than an open incision.

At UH, our ENT surgery specialists have the skill and experience to perform a wide variety of surgical procedures to improve your voice and swallowing functions. These include procedures to:

  • Improve voice quality by surgically changing the position and/or the length of the vocal cords.
  • Remove vocal cord nodules or lesions using techniques that preserve healthy tissue around the lesion.
  • Expand the muscles and structures involved in swallowing, breathing and speaking.
  • Remove tumors in the windpipe and/or esophagus that may be interfering with breathing and swallowing.
  • Repair and close diverticulum in the esophagus. Diverticulum are pouches that can trap food and affect swallowing.
  • Repair tears or injuries to the tissues of the windpipe or esophagus.

Surgical treatment and repairs are almost always followed by speech therapy sessions to help you return to normal speaking, breathing and swallowing as quickly as possible.

Learn More About Voice, Airway and Swallowing Care

Do not let problems with talking or swallowing reduce your quality of life anymore. Contact one of our University Hospitals locations to request an appointment with an ENT specialist near you.