Vocal Cord Paralysis

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What to expect

Vocal cord paralysis

Vocal cord paralysis happens when there is damage to the nerves that are attached to the voice box. Damage to these nerves may mean that the vocal cords do not open and close in the correct way.

What is vocal cord paralysis?

Vocal cord paralysis is when there is no movement of the vocal cords due to damage to the nerves. A person can be affected at any age and for a number of reasons. When the vocal cords are in the closed position, air is able to pass through creating the vibration needed for speech. If the vocal folds are damaged, or paralysed, then this function will not happen in the correct way, leading to a person's speech being affected. The severity of the affect on a person's speech will depend how badly the nerves are damaged. People, who suffer from this condition, may find that swallowing and coughing is hard. This is because the folds are not able to close properly and so this leaves the windpipe open to particles of food and saliva being inhaled into lungs and trachea (aspiration).

What causes vocal cord paralysis?

Paralysis of the vocal cords is caused by nerve damage. They can be damaged in a number of different ways. Some of which are listed below:

Some nerve damage will resolve itself over time, in these cases it is not recommended to operate on as it may be too dangerous and resolve itself anyway. The exact cause in most cases is not known and varies from person to person.

What problems caused by vocal cord paralysis can speech and language therapy help with?

Speech and language therapy can help with a number of associated problems which result from vocal cord paralysis. Below is a list of areas that can be affected by vocal cord paralysis:

Speech and language therapy will help in these areas and enable a patient to overcome or work with their paralysis and therefore improve their own communication. Some paralysis may return back to normal whilst others may not. Speech and language therapy will help a patient to adjust to these changes either way.

How does speech and language therapy help vocal cord paralysis?

Speech and language therapy can be done pre or post surgery or it can be the individual method of treatment. The extent of damage will depend upon what type of input is needed for each individual case. Speech and language therapy will enable an individual to cope with the effects of paralysis; this may involve working on different methods of communication.

Benefits of speech and language therapy for someone with vocal cord paralysis include:

What would speech and language therapy treatment for vocal cord paralysis involve?

Speech and language therapy treatment may involve one or more of the following:

An initial assessment will be carried out by one of our speech and language therapists. This will highlight any worries and difficulties concerning communication, speech and swallowing. It will also provide a chance for you to share any concerns you may have, and allow you to discuss what you would like to work on and improve.

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment for vocal cord paralysis?

To arrange an initial assessment with one our speech and language therapists for vocal cord paralysis please call 0330 0885 643 or email office@slt.co.uk and our team will be happy to help.


Vocal cord paralysis can occur at any age or stage in life and can differ in severity depending upon the extent of damage to the nerves. Some paralysis may resolve itself, whilst others may be permanent. Speech and language therapy will help this condition as it will enable a patient to try different ways of communicating if needed, and also give some guidance on how to incorporate the paralysis into everyday life. To arrange a speech and language appointment please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643.

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Next steps

To speak to a Speech and Language Therapist or to book an appointment, call us on 0161 883 0111 or email office@slt.co.uk


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