As we age, our voice changes several times during our lifespan. The most dramatic change occurs during childhood, puberty, and adolescence. Our vocal cord tissues (larynx or voice box) do not fully mature until our late teenage years. The voice change during these years is especially noted in boys. The rapid changes in the size and characteristics of the male larynx during puberty causes classic pitch breaks and voice "cracking" as we learn to use our evolving and rapidly changing voice instrument. 
After several decades of relatively stable voice, noticeable change occurs again in the later years of life. We lose muscle mass, our mucus membranes thin, and lack the moisture previously seen in our younger years. We also lose some of the fine muscle coordination that we enjoyed in prior years. These changes also occur in the small, delicate muscles and mucus membranes that form the larynx. These facts all contribute to new problems related to our voice and promote vocal abuse, overuse, and chonic hoarseness as we try to compensate for lack of vocal volume and "dry throat". The ENT terms for reasons for this condition are vocal cord atrophy, bowing, presbyphonia, or presbylaryngis.

Common Age Related Voice Changes

  • Higher pitch voice in men
  • Lower pitch voice in women
  • Reduced vocal endurance
  • Difficulty being heard in noisy environments
  • Tremor or shakiness in the voice
  • Reduced volume and projection ("thin voice")

All the above perplexing vocal symptoms are aggravated by the reduced hearing acuity that is present in the older generation peer group. However, many younger generation veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are changing that hearing loss demographic. 

NOTE: Remember that almost all voice related problems are highly treatable.

Maintaining excellent total body fitness will usually also keep your voice healthy. The more active you stay vocally, the stronger your voice will be. Most of us, as we age, are not vocally gifted; but other activities and conversing with friends stimulates frequent social voice use. This will benefit the vast majority of the older peer group that are not involved in church choirs, barber shop quartets, or Karioke clubs. An excellent vocal exercise is to read aloud a book or newspaper for 10-15 minutes , 2 or 3 times a day, or singing along with the radio several times each day.

Healthy vocal exercises prescribed by a speech therapist can be very helpful.  However, some people will  persist with voice problems despite conservative hydration and voice rest treatment measures. A complete voice evaluation and diagnostic videostroboscopic examination of the larynx and vocal cords should then be performed by an ENT physician and speech language pathologist. 

In the abscence of pathology, a vocal fitness program can then be prescribed under the guidance of the speech pathologist. Based on findings of the videostroboscopy some people may be candidates for medical testing and/or surgical treatment, by Dr. Sciacca, an ENT physician trained in inhalant allergy and vocal cord injections, that can improve the strength, quality, or endurance of their voice.

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