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Pediatric Voice, Airway and Swallowing Disorders

The developing larynx and vocal tract change significantly from infancy to adulthood. When an infant is born, the larynx is positioned very high in the neck to facilitate breathing and swallowing while feeding. As the child grows, the larynx moves; although the movement does not necessarily affect phonation, it does affect the resonance of the vocal tract. As the infant’s vocal tract grows, the frequency of the vocal tract formants and fundamental frequency decreases. One of the most important features in the developing a child’s voice is the change in pitch as the child gets older. The laryngeal structure also changes as the child gets older. This growth accelerates from birth to age 3.

Changes in the structure or function of the pediatric larynx can lead to dysphonia (the medical term for disorders of the voice), and a child can present with a voice problem for a number of different reasons.

Evaluation of pediatric dysphonia requires a multidisciplinary approach to assess complete vocal function. This requires a combined effort between a pediatric otolaryngologist and voice-trained speech-language pathologist. A complete pediatric voice evaluation involves many different components including a thorough medical history, perceptual judgments of voice quality during spontaneous speech, and a medical examination by a physician which includes laryngeal visualization.

Depending on the diagnosis, a number of treatment options are available for pediatric dysphonia, including voice treatment, and in some cases surgery.

If your child suffers from symptoms of pediatric voice, airway or swallowing disorder, please contact one of our board-certified ENT specialists and schedule an appointment for your child.