Patients who suffer from a severe illness or undergo surgery often require a breathing tube, passed through the mouth, throat, and vocal cords, down into the windpipe. During the procedure the tube may bruise or otherwise damage your vocal cords, leading to temporary or permanent injuries. If you receive emergency intubation, you are at a particularly high risk for damage.
Injuries can also occur simply due the position of the breathing tube in your larynx or upper windpipe. Pressure damage may lead to ulcerations, inflammation, scarring, or a laryngeal granuloma (also called an intubation granuloma), an inflammatory growth caused by injury to the covering of the arytenoids.
In all of the above cases, you will only notice damage after the tube is removed. Signs of injury include difficulty speaking, a weak voice, and the need to clear your throat often when talking. To reduce speech problems after intubation, many patients turn to speech therapy. There are several valuable benefits of seeking therapy with a professional:
- Regain normal speech more quickly
Problems speaking can persist for weeks or even months after intubation, but resting your voice will make no difference to recovery. Speech therapy, however, will teach you how to project your voice again and to be heard over background noise. Starting speech therapy immediately after intubation gives you a greater chance of spontaneous recovery.
- Speech therapy may protect your voice
During speech therapy you will learn how to use your voice without straining and avoid bad habits such as overusing your voice or relying on compensatory vocal habits. This can help you avoid further problems in the future.
- Communicate with the wider world
Family members and close friends may learn to understand you when you speak, but you may still encounter difficulties in everyday situations. Speech therapy will allow you to build your voice to communicate clearly with others, enabling you to maintain your independence and enhance your quality of life.
- Treat vocal cord paralysis
When intubation causes paralysis or paresis of the vocal cords, your only option for treatment may be speech therapy. A therapist will work with you to develop your pitch alteration, improve your breath support and volume, and determine the right position for optimal voicing.
If you find that your voice is hoarse or quiet after intubation, talk to your medical practitioner about receiving speech therapy. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you can regain your voice and reduce the risk of suffering long-term problems.