Objectives: Epidemiologic studies of the prevalence and risk factors of voice disorders in the elderly, nontreatment seeking population are nonexistent. The purpose of this preliminary investigation was to 1) estimate the prevalence of voice disorders, 2) identify variables associated with increased risk of voice disorders, and 3) measure the socioemotional impact of voice disorders on the elderly who live independently.
Study design: Prospective, cross-sectional survey.
Methods: One hundred seventeen seniors (39 males and 78 females; mean age, 76.1 yr; SD, 8.5 yr; range, 65-94 yr), residing in Utah and Kentucky, were interviewed using a questionnaire that addressed three areas related to voice disorders: prevalence, potential risk factors, and socioemotional consequences/effects.
Results: The lifetime prevalence of a voice disorder was 47%, with 29.1% of participants reporting a current voice disorder. The majority of respondents (60%) reported chronic voice problems persisting for at least 4 weeks. Seniors who had experienced esophageal reflux, severe neck/back injury, and chronic pain were at increased risk. Voice-related effort and discomfort, combined with increased anxiety and frustration and the need to repeat oneself, were specific areas that adversely affected quality of life.
Conclusions: This preliminary epidemiologic study confirmed that voice disorders are common among the elderly, and further research is needed to identify additional risk factors contributing to voice disorder vulnerability.