Laryngology is a branch of medicine that addresses injuries, disorders and diseases of the larynx (also referred to as the voice box). Several disorders of the larynx can be caused by strain or injury to the vocal cords through excessive talking, throat clearing, coughing, smoking, screaming, singing and speaking too loudly.

  • Laryngitis - an inflammation or swelling of the vocal cords
  • Vocal cord nodules – small, benign growths on the vocal cords
  • Vocal cord polyps – this is similar to a vocal nodule, but softer and more blister-like
  • Vocal cord hemorrhage – a sudden loss of voice, usually due to screaming, shouting or other strenuous vocal tasks
  • Laryngeal cancer – cancer tumours can grow in the larynx
  • Spasmodic dysphonia – people with this condition experience spasm of one or more muscles of the larynx. This can cause difficulty in speech
  • Professional voice disorders – many people who use their voices for a living may experience either temporary or more long-lasting problems with their voices
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD) – This condition is also more commonly referred to as heartburn, acid reflux disease or gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)

The study of the voice has made great strides over the last few decades. This is mainly due to the advancement in technology and the ability to push boundaries when analysing and managing the larynx. Greater cooperation between the laryngologist, speech therapist, voice coach and voice scientist has given all parties a deeper insight into how to diagnose and manage voice problems.

Treatments for conditions that affect the larynx vary depending on your diagnosis. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments may be used to treat laryngeal cancer. Surgery may also be required to treat nodules, polyps and cysts.

From the voice specialist’s perspective, the biggest advancement has been the advent of the videostroboscope. This tool allows for real-time evaluation of the voice. By making use of stroboscopic light, vocal cord movement in all its intricacies can routinely be evaluated in the specialist’s room, and the video produced then discussed with the patient.

The number of people who use their voices professionally has grown exponentially. Apart from singers and performers, many people earn their living today by giving presentations and speaking all day – especially in the corporate sector.

All professional voice users can potentially develop problems with their larynx due to an assault on this area from other parts of the body - reflux from the stomach, an infective post nasal drip or strain on the organ from overuse.

Our practice has a state-of-the-art videostroboscope that enables us to make an accurate diagnosis of the most subtle problem. Dr Martin Vanlierde has been Consultant of the Voice Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town Medical School for the last 15 years. He regularly attends international congresses to stay abreast of all the latest research and techniques applied in the field.