Vocal cord paralysis

How we can help people with 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 effect 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 SLT UK help with?

SLT UK can help with a number of associated problems which result from vocal cord paralysis. Vocal cord paralysis may cause voice problems, speech sound problems, swallowing difficulties and communication problems.

Speech and language therapy will help in these areas and enable a patient to overcome or manage 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 before or after 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.

Speech and language therapy can help improve any aspect of an individual's communication dependent on their needs. It can also help increase confidence and self-esteem whilst reducing anxiety when communicating with others.

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

Speech and language therapy treatment may involve assessments, reports, reviews, therapy programmes, support groups, training, advice and education.

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.


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.

If you feel you may benefit from speech and language therapy or would like any more information on our services please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 088 5643.

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