Dealing With Vocal Cord Paralysis

“Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They’re what make the instrument stretch – what make you go beyond the norm.”

– Cicely Tyson (actress)

When it comes to the instruments of speech, vocal cords are the primary tools. So it may come as a surprise to learn that paralysis of the vocal cords is possible. But the two little folds of membrane that stretch across the larynx, controlling airflow and thus helping to produce the sounds associated with speech, can indeed stop functioning. While the cause is often difficult to pinpoint; injury, stroke, tumors, inflammation or neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease can all lead to vocal cord paralysis.

The results of this condition can range from mild to moderate breathing problems, a persistently hoarse-sounding voice, to a complete loss of speech. Choking or inhaling food or liquid is also possible. Vocal cords are the mechanism that covers off the airway during swallowing and paralysis may therefore prevent complete opening or closure of this airway allowing material to be aspirated into the lungs.

The possibilities for improvement depend largely on the cause of the paralysis, the severity of the symptoms and the amount of time that has elapsed from the onset of the condition. So if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, it is important to see your family doctor without delay. An affected individual may require surgery and voice therapy with a trained Speech-Language Pathologist.

Speech-Language Pathologists are highly educated and licensed professionals who assess, treat and help to prevent disorders related to speech, language, swallowing and fluency.

Following a complete assessment, a Speech-Language Pathologist will develop exercises and/or activities to strengthen the vocal cords, to improve breath control and to prevent abnormal tension in other muscles around the paralyzed vocal cords. This will also protect the client’s airway during swallowing.

At S.L. Hunter & Associates, the team of Speech-Language Pathologists are equipped with up-to-date technology, resources and information to help assess the unique needs of each individual client and to implement appropriate intervention strategies.

The offices of S.L. Hunter & Associates are located at 5195 Harvester Rd. Unit 4B. They can be reached by telephone at 905-637-5522 or online at