The Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders

The exact condition you might have depends on your age, occupation and overall health. According to conservative estimates, 28 million workers in the United States — including 11 percent of teachers — suffer from a voice disorder every day.

Swallowing disorders are less frequent, but are more likely to be life-threatening for individuals with other conditions, including stroke or degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Our physicians and other health professionals, including speech-language pathologists, form a tightly interwoven team to both diagnose and provide the best possible care for individuals with voice and swallowing disorders.

This integrated approach by multiple specialists ensures the most rapid and accurate diagnosis of your particular disorder, which in turn leads to the most efficient and effective treatment.

Vocal Folds (Vocal Cords)
During vocalization, the inner edges of the vocal folds come close to each other as the lungs force air through the larynx, and the aerodynamic and muscular forces acting on these structures produces a pulse of air that can be heard.

Voice and Speech Disorders
As defined by the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), voice disorders are characterized by abnormal production and/or absence of vocal quality, pitch (frequency of vibration), loudness, resonance, and/or duration, given an individual’s age and/or gender.

Speech disorders are impairments of the articulation of speech sounds (speech slurring) and fluency (the interruptions of speech such as stuttering). Therefore, speech is a broader term encompassing the complex and unique skills which differentiates humans from all other animals.

Disorders Altering the Performance of the Vocal Folds and Vocalization
Any disorder that either immobilizes or prevents the vocal folds from vibrating against each other or alters their elasticity (ability to stretch) reduces the quality of the voice. A disorder of the voice is called dysphonia.

Other Disorders Altering Vocalization
Several neurological disorders appear to be dysphonia at first. These vary from myasthenia gravis, which weakens vocal fold movement, to spasmodic dysphonia. Spasmodic dysphonia is characterized by episodic interruptions in voicing which increase with the complexity of the vocal task, such as simply saying an "ee" sound versus speaking full sentences.

Swallowing Disorders
Impaired swallowing, known as dysphagia, is an altered ability to move food and/or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. One example of dysphagia is when the trachea (windpipe) is not completely closed during a swallow and food or liquid can be aspirated ("go the wrong way").

This happens to everyone once in a while, but when it happens consistently it can lead to aspiration pneumonia, an infection of the lungs from saliva or food laden with bacteria entering the respiratory tract. Another example of dysphagia is the feeling of food sticking in the throat after a swallow.

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Meet An Expert

Steven D. Schaefer, MD, FACS

Steven D. Schaefer, MD, FACS

Steven D. Schaefer, MD, FACS, has special expertise in minimally invasive surgery of the sinuses, nose and anterior skull base.


Jennifer Schottler, MS, CCC-SLP

Jennifer Schottler, M.S. CCC-SLP

Jennifer Schottler, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a senior speech language pathologist at the Center for Communication Disorders.


Michelle Graham, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S

Michelle Graham, CCC-SLP, BCS-S

Michelle Graham, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, is the supervisor of the Center for Communication Disorders.


Deborah Yoon, M.S., CCC-SLP

Deborah Yoon, M.S., CCC-SLP

Deborah Yoon, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at the Center for Communication Disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital.