Spastic dysphonia is a speech impairment in which your voice sounds different as you talk. When you try to speak, the muscles in your larynx (voicebox) tighten or spasm. The vocal cords will thus be unable to vibrate correctly to produce normal sounds. A combination of treatments and therapies may help reduce the severity of the symptoms and their impact on your life and job.

Physicians and scientists are aware of the causes of spastic dysphonia. When you try to speak if you have the illness, the muscles in your larynx (voice box) can spasm open or closed. The vocal cords (folds) can move abnormally due to the rapid, involuntary spasms affecting your voice. The voice alterations are caused by spasms that come and go for no apparent reason. There is a link between stress and increased spasms.


The condition might manifest itself in a variety of types:

  • Adductor spasmodic dysphonia. This is the most typical. The vocal cords crash together and constrict during spasms, making it challenging to make noises. 
  • Abductor spasmodic dysphonia. Spasms cause the vocal folds to remain open, preventing them from vibrating and producing sound. 
  • Mixed spasmodic dysphonia. This is an unusual mix of adductor and abductor muscles.


The majority of cases of spastic dysphonia develop over time. When symptoms first appear, they may worsen for around 18 months before stabilizing. Voices of people with spastic dysphonia have been reported as:

  • Shaky or trembling
  • Tight or strangled
  • Strained
  • Hoarse
  • Broken or jerky
  • Breathy or whispered


Because the larynx seems normal, procedures such as MRI and CT scans are ineffective in diagnosing spastic dysphonia. Furthermore, the symptoms may be similar to those of other illnesses.

Diagnosis may necessitate the involvement of a healthcare team, which may include:

  • Neurologist. A doctor who specializes in the nerve system and the brain.
  • Otolaryngologist (ENT). A physician who focuses on the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. 

Speech-language pathologist. A healthcare professional who specializes in voice, speech, and language issues.


Spastic dysphonia has no known cure. Some treatments, however, may help to alleviate symptoms or reduce the severity of the illness, such as:

  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Injections of botulinum toxin (BOTOX®)
  • Myofascial release
  • Selective laryngeal adductor denervation-reinnervation (SLAD-R)
  • Thyroplasty
  • Voice therapy

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