Voice & Swallowing Disorders

Specialty Physician Associates -  - Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor

Specialty Physician Associates

Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctors & Facial Plastic Surgery located in Bethlehem, Allentown, Quakertown & Wind Gap, PA

It’s estimated that 1 in 25 adults develops a swallowing problem every year, while nearly 17% of the general population experiences voice disorders. The experts at Specialty Physician Associates can determine the cause of your voice or swallowing disorder and develop customized treatments to help you overcome the problem. If you have questions about your voice or ability to swallow, book an appointment online or call one of the offices in Bethlehem, Allentown, Quakertown, and Wind Gap, Pennsylvania.

Voice & Swallowing Disorders Q & A

What Causes a Voice Disorder?

A voice disorder occurs when the quality of your voice changes due to a problem with your vocal cords or vocal folds. Your vocal cords consist of two folds of tissue in your larynx or voice box. These folds stay open when you breathe in, then they come together when you speak or sing. As air flows over the folds, they vibrate to produce sound.

When you have a voice disorder, your voice becomes hoarse, which is a generic term meaning your voice changes. Hoarseness may mean that your voice is raspy, softer, lower pitched, or breathy, for example. Voice problems may be caused by numerous conditions, including:

  • Laryngitis
  • Vocal nodules
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Vocal cord spasms
  • Thyroid problems
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Straining your voice by yelling, talking loudly, or singing


Medical conditions affecting the nerves that control your vocal cords can also cause a voice disorder or vocal cord paralysis.

What Causes a Swallowing Disorder?

Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, occurs when you have trouble passing food and liquids from your mouth, through your esophagus, and into your stomach. Although dysphagia affects people of all ages, it’s more common as you get older.

Dysphagia may develop due to a dry mouth, a sore throat, or many other health problems, including:

  • Disorders affecting muscles and nerves such as Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, and cerebral palsy
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Narrowed or blocked esophagus
  • Age-related muscle weakness
  • GERD


In some cases, you may experience pain when you swallow. Otherwise, difficulty swallowing typically causes symptoms such as food getting stuck in your throat or esophagus, regurgitating food, or coughing or choking when you try to swallow. Swallowing disorders can also cause hoarseness.

How are Voice and Swallowing Disorders Treated?

Your treatment is always customized according to the cause of your voice or swallowing problem. Treatment options for a voice disorder include speech and voice therapy, surgery to remove polyps, and medications.

Swallowing disorders are frequently treated with dietary changes, medications, or minimally invasive surgery to treat structural problems like a narrowed esophagus. Many patients also benefit from swallowing therapy, which includes exercises to coordinate swallowing muscles.

If you develop changes in your voice or have a hard time swallowing, call Specialty Physician Associates or book an appointment online.