Vocal Disorders As We Age

As we age, our voices change. The most dramatic changes occur during childhood and adolescence. Your voice box (larynx) and vocal cord tissues don’t fully mature until the late teen years. 

Hormone-related changes during adolescence are particularly noticeable among boys. The rapid changes in the size and character of the larynx causes the characteristic pitch breaks and voice “cracking” during puberty as boys learn to use their rapidly changing voice. 

After several decades of relatively stable voice, noticeable change can occur in the later years of life. As our bodies age, we lose muscle mass, our mucous membranes thin and become more dry, and we lose some of the fine coordination that we had in younger years. It is no surprise that these changes occur in the larynx as well, and this leads to changes in our voice. Your doctor may call these changes vocal cord atrophy or bowing, presbyphonia, or presbylaryngis. 

Common age-related changes include: 

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

These symptoms are amplified by the reduced hearing ability that commonly occurs as we age and your need to speak more loudly to your peers. Much of the time, hoarseness and vocal difficulties are not simply related to age. Any change that you notice in your voice should be a warning sign that something may be wrong. 

We Can Help 

Nearly all voice problems are highly treatable. To see a specialist at Mount Sinai’s Eugen Grabscheid, MD Voice Center, please call us at 212-241-9425. We are conveniently located on the Upper East Side of New York City.