Article Written By: Melissa Gagnon, Owner and Speech-Language Pathologist
"Stop yelling!", "Please use your indoor voice!", "That's too loud!"- how many times a day do we find ourselves saying these statements to our children? I know my children can get loud while playing independently or together. They raise their voices when they are upset or angry or when they are pretending to be a superhero and things get intense in their pretend play world. As adults, we also change the tone and volume of our voices to relay a message. Increasing the volume of your voice is necessary and okay sometimes (if there is background noise in the room, if you are speaking to someone at a distance, if your child is in danger and is not listening), but should not be the norm. Speaking at a loud volume puts a lot of strain on your vocal chords and can cause damage or vocal abuse.
Vocally "abusive" behaviours, such as yelling, frequent crying, vocal noises (e.g., roaring like a dinosaur), were thought to be the main cause of pediatric voice disorders that children would "just grow out of". However, pediatric voice disorders are not always caused by vocal abuse and should be assessed. Some other causes of voice disorders include vocal nodules (blisters on the vocal cords) and chronic laryngitis (swollen vocal cords).
In addition to this, research has started to look at more long term effects of a voice disorder on a child’s life. Children that present with a voice disorder, whether due to vocal abuse or not, reported feeling that their voice disorders resulted in negative attention and limited their participation in activities (Connor, Cohen, Theis, Thibeault, Heatley, & Bless, 2008). It is our mission here at Empower Communication to help both children and families to fully participate in activities and be successful communicators by reaching their speech and language goals, which includes having and maintaining a healthy voice!
Therefore, it is important to know what is not considered to be a 'typical' sounding voice. If you hear any of the following and/or your child's voice changes, you should seek out an assessment:
Harsh sounding voice
Breathy sounding voice
Sudden stops in the voice
High pitch voice
Low pitch voice
Changes in pitch, loudness, and overall vocal quality tend to interfere with communicative abilities. At Empower Communication Services, we offer voice therapy to families, in which we would educate both the child and parents on vocal health and proper voice use in order to help eliminate the cause of the voice disorder. We would work closely with an Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor (ENT) and would request an evaluation prior to starting treatment to diagnose the vocal pathology. We would then develop an appropriate treatment plan in conjunction with the ENT’s diagnosis.
In order to maintain a healthy voice we recommend the following:
Use an appropriate speaking volume
Avoid yelling, screaming, and harsh noises/silly noises in which the child changes the pitch of their voice
Make sure background noise is low (e.g., music, TV)
Have your child come to you/you go to your child if you want to speak to each other instead of yelling across a room
Stay hydrated/drink lots of water
Keep a humidifier in the bedroom in dryer months
If you have concerns about your child's voice and/or your child has seen an ENT and voice therapy was recommended, reach out to us today!