COVID-19 and Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Practice of Voice and Upper Airway Disorders

Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2021 Jan 27;30(1):63-74. doi: 10.1044/2020_AJSLP-20-00228. Epub 2020 Dec 17.


Purpose Evaluation and management of voice and upper airway disorders in adults and children, by speech-language pathologists worldwide, have been significantly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Secondary to the pathogenic nature of the virus in the respiratory tract and upper airway, it is essential that speech-language pathologists who specialize in these disorders are knowledgeable of current practices to provide evidence-based care while minimizing viral transmission. Understanding how and when SARS-CoV-2 spreads is critical to the development of effective infection prevention within clinical practices. Method We established an evidence-based clinical practice guide for clinicians working with voice and upper airway through a comprehensive evaluation of peer-reviewed journals, non-peer-reviewed manuscripts on preprint servers, national health guidelines, and published and online consensus statements and emerging data. Emphasis was placed on risk mitigation for viral transmission via safe clinical practices, including evaluative procedures, therapy including telehealth, personal protective equipment, room, staffing, and distancing considerations. Results/Conclusions While knowledge relevant to viral transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly evolving, there is a paucity of literature specific to the evaluation and treatment of voice and upper airway disorders. Within these confines and given the potentially significant high risk of infection secondary to the nature of COVID-19, we summarize current considerations and recommend best practices that maximize risk mitigation whereby ensuring patient and provider safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Airway Obstruction / diagnosis*
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / therapy
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Speech Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Speech Disorders / therapy
  • Voice Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Voice Disorders / therapy