Believe it or not, it is possible to lose your ability to speak properly after a traffic accident. While injuries like paralysis from spinal damage, traumatic brain injuries, and broken bones get most of the publicity when it comes to auto collisions, vocal cord paralysis happens to thousands of people every year. The Mayo Clinic describes vocal paralysis as an injury or disruption to the nerve impulses in the larynx. Vocal paralysis results in either temporary or permanent speech disability, difficulty breathing, and difficulty eating and drinking. The last complication occurs because your vocal cords not only allow you to speak, but they also keep food and liquid from passing into your airway when eating dinner. In a car accident, vocal cord paralysis can occur from a blunt force trauma to the head, chest, or neck.
Vocal cords are made of two flexible muscles located at the entrance of the trachea. They vibrate to make noise, and when you are not speaking, they relax, which allows you to breath. In most cases of vocal cord paralysis, only one vocal cord is injured. If both are damaged, the victim may have significant difficulty breathing, swallowing, or speaking.
Medical Signs of Vocal Cord Paralysis
After an auto accident, if you notice any of the following signs of vocal cord paralysis, seek medical attention and contact an experienced Cincinnati car accident attorney:
- Difficulty speaking;
- Breathy voice;
- Quiet voice;
- Loud breathing;
- Out of breath while talking at a normal volume;
- Necessity to clear throat;
- No gag reflex;
- Inability to swallow without choking or coughing;
- Inefficient cough; or/and
- Loss of vocal pitch
Treating Vocal Cord Paralysis
An otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor) will examine and diagnose vocal cord paralysis if you have it and explain the treatment options. Usually, vocal cord paralysis disappears on its own with enough time. It can take up to a year or more for normal function to return. For this reason, many otolaryngologists refrain from a surgical option until a year has passed, as reported by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
In the meantime, during the year of the auto accident, the patient will use voice therapy to exercise and strengthen the damaged vocal folds. This improves the ability to breath while speaking. Voice therapy may also include learning how to use your voice differently by opening the mouth wider or speaking slower. Surgery, in the case that therapy does not work, consists of inserting an implant or using sutures to alter the position of the laryngeal cartilage. This moves the vocal cords closer together. However, if both vocal cords were paralyzed during the car accident, a tracheotomy may have been necessary to allow breathing.
If you or a family member has suffered paralyzed vocal cords following a car accident that you did not cause, you may be able to collect damages to help pay for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. Give the law offices of the Ohio Car Accident Lawyers to speak to one of our experienced car accident attorneys today.