The vocal cords sit in the back of the throat near the trachea. These muscles are flexible, and also extremely delicate. Your vocal cords help you speak by vibrating when air passes between them, and they prevent food or liquids from entering the windpipe by covering the trachea.
Your vocal cords may become paralyzed in several ways, which include, medical malpractice, infections, tumors, neurological conditions, blunt force trauma to the head, neck, or upper chest area, or it can develop from severe cases of whiplash. The head, upper chest, and neck protect the vocal cords and the nerves that stimulate the larynx, therefore damage to these areas may result in vocal chord paralysis.
Furthermore, this injury is regarded as a significant and life-altering injury, which can take several months or years to heal. Vocal cord paralysis is a residual injury, which can increase the monetary value of your claim.
There are two types of vocal cord paralysis:
Unilateral — unilateral paralysis occurs when only one of the two vocal cords becomes completely paralyzed or unable to move normally. This type of paralysis is the most common type.
Bilateral — bilateral paralysis occurs when both of the vocal cords become paralyzed, or otherwise incapacitated; typically frozen between half-open and closed; not being able to move either direction. This type of paralysis is rare and may be considered life-threatening. When frozen in this position, food or various liquids may travel down your windpipe, entering the lungs.
- Inability to Speak/Trouble Talking
- Limitations in Vocal Pitch/Volume
- Horseness/Breathy Voice
- Coughing or Choking When Swallowing
- Trouble Breathing
- No Gag Reflex
- Loss of Vocal Pitch
Treatment will depend on the severity, the type, and also how the injury was sustained. In mild cases, the patient typically undergoes vocal therapy, and will not need corrective surgery. Vocal therapy will aid in strengthening the vocal cords, which protect your windpipe, and will improve your breathing. In some cases, vocal cord paralysis can disappear on its own over time, taking anywhere from several months to several years. For this reason, if a patient needs corrective surgery, doctors will wait about one year, before referring the patient to a surgeon.
However, if the injury is severe, the individual may need surgery to correct the damage done to their vocal cords. Surgical treatments used to fix this injury include a tracheotomy (may be permanent or temporary), vocal cord repositioning, replacing the damaged nerve, a structural implant placed in the damaged cord, or a bulk injection in the damaged cord made of fat or collagen. Unfortunately, the patient may not get their original voice back after treatment and may need to continue treatment to learn how to use the voice they now have.
After an auto accident, you should always seek immediate medical attention, as you may have sustained injuries that are not visible to the naked eye. Furthermore, it is possible to develop other injuries from injuries sustained in an auto accident.