Elderly Don’t Seek Help for Hoarseness

The breathy, hoarse voice of seniors is often considered a normal sign of aging, but U.S. doctors say it’s a false perception, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Dr. Seth Cohen, an otolaryngologist at the Duke Voice Care Center found nearly 20 percent of the 248 octogenarians studied had dysphonia — the medical term for hoarseness, weakness or loss of voice. Fourteen percent had dysphagia or painful swallowing, more than 77 percent had hoarseness and 79 percent had dysphasia — language disorder in which there is an impairment of speech — but had not sought treatment, even though more than half expressed interest in getting treatment.

Half of those surveyed were unaware that treatment existed. This is a concern, said Cohen, because voice and swallowing concerns can lead to serious quality of life issues, including anxiety, depression and social withdrawal.

Cohen, who didn’t outline treatments that are available, said part of the problem may be under-recognition. Primary care physicians are currently managing the many medical conditions elderly people routinely face, and may not be discussing voice and swallowing problems with their patients.

“Our results highlight the need for better education of the general public and, primary care providers,” Cohen told the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery in Chicago.

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