What causes nasal language
⚡ Nasal voice: why it happens and how to treat it
Your speaking voice is created when air leaks from your lungs and flows up through your vocal cords and throat into your mouth. The resulting sound quality is known as resonance.
As you speak, your soft palate will rise on the soft palate until it presses against the back of your throat. This creates a seal that controls the amount of air that passes through your nose based on the sounds you are speaking.
The soft palate and the side and back walls of your throat together form an access known as the velopharyngeal valve. When this flap does not work properly, it can cause changes in speech.
There are two types of nose voices:
- Hyponasal. Speaking is caused by insufficient air getting through your nose when you speak. As a result, the sound does not have enough resonance.
- Hypernasal. Speaking is caused by too much air leaking through your nose when you speak. The air gives the sound too much resonance.
If you feel that your nasal voice needs attention, especially if this change is new, see an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Many of the disorders that cause a nasal voice are very treatable.
What does a nose voice sound like?
A hyponasal voice may sound blocked, like your nose is blocked. It's the same sound you would make if you covered your nose while talking.
You may have these symptoms along with a hyponasal voice:
- stuffy or runny nose
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
- Discharge from your nose
- Sore throat
- to cough
- Loss of smell and taste
- Pain around your eyes, cheeks, and forehead
- a headache
- Bad breath
A hypernasal voice sounds like speaking through your nose, with an accompanying leak of air.
You may have these symptoms along with a hypernasal voice:
- Difficulty pronouncing consonants that require high pressure, such as p, t and k
- Air that escapes through your nose when you like sound combinations s, ch and sh say
What causes a nasal voice?
A few factors control the quality of your voice. This includes the size and shape of your mouth, nose, and throat, and the movement of air through these structures.
A hyponasal voice is usually due to a nasal congestion. This blockage can be temporary - for example, if you have a cold, sinus infection or allergies.
Or it can be caused by a more permanent structural problem, such as
- large tonsils or polyps
- a different septum
- Nasal polyps
The main cause of hypernasal voice is a problem with the velopharyngeal valve called velopharyngeal dysfunction (VPD).
There are three types of VPD:
- Velopharyngeal regurgitation is caused by a structural problem such as a short soft palate.
- Velopharyngeal incompetence occurs when the valve does not close completely due to a movement problem.
- Velopharyngeal misuse occurs when a child fails to properly learn to control the movement of air through the throat and mouth.
These are also known as resonance disturbances.
Some of the causes of VPD include:
- Adenoid surgery. Surgery to remove the glands behind the nose can leave a larger space in the back of the throat for air in the nose to escape. This is temporary and should improve a few weeks after surgery.
- Cleft palate. This birth defect occurs when a baby's mouth does not form correctly during pregnancy. Surgical intervention to correct it is usually performed at 1 year of age. But about 20 percent of babies with a cleft palate will continue to have a VPD after surgery.
- A short palate. This creates too much space between the roof of the mouth and throat for air to escape.
- DiGeorge syndrome. This chromosomal abnormality affects the development of many body systems, especially the head and neck. It can cause a cleft palate and other abnormalities.
- Brain injury or neurological disease. A traumatic brain injury or conditions like cerebral palsy can prevent your soft palate from moving properly.
- Wrong learning. Some children do not learn how to properly produce speech sounds.
How is a nasal voice treated?
The treatment your doctor recommends depends on the cause of your nasal voice.
Decongestants, antihistamines, and steroid-containing nasal sprays can help reduce swelling and relieve nasal congestion caused by allergies, sinus infections, polyps, or a curved septum. Antibiotics can treat a sinus infection that hasn't gotten better and is caused by bacteria.
Many of the structural problems that cause a nasal voice can be corrected by surgery:
- Removal of tonsils or polyps
- Septoplasty for a septal deviation
- endoscopic surgery to remove nasal polyps
- Fold palatoplasty and sphincter pharyngoplasty to lengthen a short soft palate
- Corrective surgery for cleft palates in infants around 12 months of age
You can have speech therapy performed before or after the operation, or on your own. A speech therapist will first evaluate your language in order to find the best treatment approach for you.
Speech therapy teaches you how to move your lips, tongue, and jaw to make sounds correctly. You will also learn how to gain more control over your velopharyngeal valve.
Speech exercises to try out at home
A speech therapist will suggest exercises that you can practice at home. Repetition and regular practice is important. Despite some common recommendations, blowing and suction exercises do not help keep the velopharyngeal valve closed.
A better approach is to practice speaking as your therapist suggests. Speak, sing, and vocalize as much as you can to alter the quality of your voice if desired.
If you have a condition that causes a nasal voice, there are many treatment options.
Structural problems such as polyps and septal deviation can be corrected surgically. Speech therapy can help you control the movement of air through your mouth and nose so you can speak more clearly and confidently.
However, remember that each person's voice is unique. If you feel like your voice has a nasal quality but you don't have any of the diseases we mentioned, consider accepting it as part of you. We are often more critical of our own voice than others. It is possible that others either didn't notice your voice or found it to make you unique in a positive way.
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