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Sudden Voice Change in Elderly Adults

Our voices naturally change over the course of our lives, and these types of changes are often nothing to worry about. But when it comes to seniors, voice problems can take on entirely new characteristics, and it can be important to distinguish between changes that occur gradually and naturally. Though you can’t prepare for every possible medical scenario involving a voice change, learning more about the causes and risks of voice problems in elderly folks can help you make more informed decisions about these problems when they occur.

What causes a weak voice in the elderly?

It’s common for seniors to report vocal fatigue and changes in the quality of their voices. That might include a change in how high or low your voice can extend, as well as the amount of work required to perform those tones. Most of the time, that’s just a natural part of aging because, for efficient operation, vocal cords need to be able to close and vibrate evenly.

But many things happen to our bodies as we age, as a gradual loss in muscle mass. Those losses in muscle can weaken our vocal cords, making it more difficult and exhausting to speak. Seniors may also find it easier to injure themselves by over-extending their voices.

Reductions in our musculature have implications for our lungs, too. Even changes to our facial muscles and dental structure can have an effect on our ability to speak. The characteristics of an elderly voice resulting from these kinds of age-related changes are known as presbyphonia.

A Sudden Voice Change in Elderly Patients

But a sudden voice change in elderly folks is another matter entirely because hoarseness brought on suddenly has a much greater range of potential causes. For example, most instances of a shaky voice in elderly patients is a condition of the larynx called spasmodic dysphonia.

Some of the more common causes of hoarseness include voice tremors, vocal fold bowing, unilateral fold paralysis, and benign vocal lesions. Because of the wide range of potential causes, from heritable genetics to having over-worked your voice to the point of inflicting trauma, it’s usually best to consult with a doctor to narrow down the cause of any voice-related symptoms your loved one may experience.

Solutions for Weak Voices

By creating barriers in social and work settings, presbyphonia & other changes to the voice can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to lead a normal life. In many muscle-related voice issues, behavioral therapy has been shown to help reduce minor symptoms. But the ubiquitous solutions usually involve assistive devices.

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For instance, some people with weaker voices find it helpful to use a voice amplifier for the elderly. A battery-powered speaker-microphone kit can allow a person with a soft voice to functionally extend it without risking strain on their voice. These kits are usually inexpensive and were often designed for people with limited mobility, arthritis, or similar issues.

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