Voice, Swallowing & Airway Conditions We Treat

The care team at NYU Langone’s Voice Center specializes in innovative, noninvasive techniques for the rehabilitation of voice, swallowing, and airway disorders. For more information, please call us at 646-754-8642 or email voicecenter@med.nyu.edu.

Vocal Conditions

At the Voice Center, our physicians and therapists treat patients with a host of conditions that affect vocal quality. We employ an arsenal of treatment options to help you sound like yourself again, including innovative voice rehabilitation techniques, voice training, speech therapy, and—when necessary—surgery.

Hoarseness and Sore Throat

Hoarseness is an abnormal change in voice. Some of the most common causes include acute laryngitis, laryngopharyngeal reflux disease, vocal cord nodules, vocal cord polyps, and vocal cord paresis or paralysis. 

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux 

Laryngopharyngeal reflux, or acid reflux, refers to the backflow of stomach acid into the throat that causes a hoarse voice, chronic throat clearing, feeling a “lump” in your throat, or trouble swallowing. 

The treatment of laryngopharyngeal reflux usually involves a combination of approaches, including dietary and behavioral modifications, medications to reduce stomach acid, and surgery to prevent reflux.

Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis 

Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis causes lesions, which are similar to warts, to grow on the vocal folds. Treatment for this condition has traditionally consisted of surgery to remove the papillomas. Medications and in-office laser treatment can also provide relief.

Vocal Nodules

Vocal cord nodules are lesions on the vocal folds. Voice therapy is the most common treatment, but some people may need surgery to remove advanced nodules. 

Laryngitis 

Laryngitis refers to inflammation of the larynx or voice box. Treatment may involve vocal rest, fluid intake, improved vocal hygiene, and voice therapy. 

Muscle Tension Dysphonia 

Muscle tension dysphonia refers to an abnormal voice pattern resulting in the improper use of the muscles of the voice box. Voice therapy is the most common treatment.  

Spasmodic Dysphonia 

Spasmodic or spastic dysphonia is a disorder that causes abnormal speech. The most common and reliable therapy involves the use of Botox®, a medication containing a very small amount of botulinum toxin, to weaken the vocal cords and limit the abnormal contractions. 

Teflon Granulomas 

After its introduction in 1962, Teflon® injections became a popular treatment for paralyzed vocal cords. Unfortunately, the injections caused Teflon® granuloma formations and scarring of the vocal cords. 

Completely removing these granulomas is often very difficult. However, at the Voice Center, we are experts in a treatment method that allows a complete removal of Teflon® granulomas as well as reconstruction of the vocal folds. 

Vocal Cord Granulomas 

Vocal granuloma is a particular type of laryngeal lesion that forms in the back portion of the voice box. People with granulomas may complain of hoarseness, chronic throat clearing, throat pain, a cough that is occasionally blood-tinged, and feel a "lump” in the throat. Treatment includes voice therapy, Botox® injections into the vocal cord, or surgery to remove the lesion. 

Vocal Fold Paralysis 

People who lose their voices because of vocal fold paralysis, or those who have a partial loss of voice called vocal paresis, experience hoarseness, vocal fatigue, pain, aspiration, or tightness in the throat when speaking and breathing. Treatment may include voice therapy or surgery. 

Vocal Cord Polyps

Vocal cord polyps are benign lesions that can cause hoarseness, constant throat clearing, coughing, and trouble swallowing. Small polyps caused by irritating factors such as smoking may respond well with smoking cessation alone. Other polyps may require medication. Large polyps or those not responding to medication may need surgery.

Swallowing Disorders

If you’ve started to experience swallowing problems, we encourage you to seek out treatment as soon as possible. Our therapists and physicians may recommend dietary restrictions, repositioning your head when you eat, prescription medications, or surgery to help overcome your swallowing difficulties.

Aspiration

Aspiration is the abnormal entry of food or liquid into the windpipe and subsequently into the lungs. Aspiration may lead to pneumonia or long-term lung complications. Treatment may include dietary changes or adjusting the position of your head when you eat. Some patients may require therapy or surgery to improve their swallowing mechanism.

Zenker's Diverticulum

Zenker's diverticulum is a specific abnormality that results in a pouch forming alongside the esophagus. The pouch fills with food or liquid, and can then be regurgitated into the throat, leading to swallowing difficulties or aspiration. Treatment of Zenker’s diverticulum involves surgery to remove the pouch. 

Airway and Breathing Conditions

Laryngology doctors at the Voice Center can help you with your breathing problems by using treatment methods that open the airway and improve respiration.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) occurs when the vocal cords do not open and close normally when you breathe. In certain circumstances, a VCD attack may be sudden and severe and may require immediate emergency room treatment.

Symptoms of VCD include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, frequent coughing, loud breathing, and hoarseness. VCD may be caused by respiratory infection, a strong response to very potent odors, acid reflux, postnasal drip, stress, exercise, or tobacco smoke, particularly second-hand smoke. 

Ear, nose, and throat doctors at the Voice Center run several tests to determine if the VCD is accompanied by asthma or other conditions. We look closely at your vocal cords and may perform a spirometry exam, which is a breathing test that shows how well you breathe and how well your lungs perform. VCD can be difficult to diagnose, so seeking out our care during an attack can help you get the treatment you need. 

Breathing Difficulty and Trachea Stenosis

Narrow airway, or trachea stenosis, makes it difficult to get adequate amounts of air to the lungs. Endoscopic surgical techniques can help open the airway, or your doctor may recommend a stent, a type of surgical scaffolding, to keep the airway open. 

An alternative to this surgical correction is to bypass the stenosis by performing a tracheostomy, which creates an opening through the neck directly to the windpipe. 

Shortness of Breath and Noisy Breathing

When both of your vocal folds are paralyzed, shortness of breath and noisy breathing can occur, while your voice remains largely unaffected. Patients with this condition often undergo tracheostomy to relieve their breathing difficulties. 

At the Voice Center, we specialize in airway surgery that avoids a tracheostomy by creating a wider breathing passage.