Caregiver's Home Companion Free captioning phone for those with hearing loss.

Posted: October 07, 2008

Many Elderly Suffer Voice, Swallowing Problems; Accept it as 'Normal'

A hoarse, breathy voice and swallowing problems are common among the elderly, but too often treatment is not sought and the conditions are accepted by seniors as a normal part of aging, according to a new study. 

That's a problem, said Dr. Seth Cohen, a Duke University otolaryngologist and the study's lead author, because voice and swallowing concerns can lead to serious quality of life issues including anxiety, depression and social withdrawal. 

Nearly 20% of the 248 octogenarians studied by the Duke researchers had dysphonia, the medical term for hoarseness, weakness or loss of voice. Fourteen percent had dysphagia or painful swallowing. More than three-quarters of the respondents (77.6% for dysphonia and 79.4% for dysphasia) had not sought treatment, even though more than half (55.9%) expressed interest in getting help. 

Discount Prescriptions
“Voice and swallowing issues are serious concerns, and people who want medical care are not getting it,” said Cohen. “Is it because they have so many medical problems and these issues are getting pushed aside or overlooked? We don't know. What we do know is these medical concerns have a huge impact on quality of life, and more people should be aware of the treatments available and be able to obtain help.” 

The Duke team’s research findings were presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in Chicago. 

Previous studies have reported that nearly a fourth of all elderly believe vocal and swallowing problems are a normal part of aging, a perception found to be even more common among those who actually suffer because of the conditions. The Duke team believes this misperception may lead some seniors to accept their difficulties and not seek treatment. 

Half of those surveyed were unaware that treatment existed. This is a concern, said Cohen, because symptoms of depression were found to be more common among those who were affected. And, he said, previous studies have reported a connection between the conditions and increased depression, anxiety and social withdrawal. 

Cohen said part of the problem may be under-recognition. Primary care physicians are currently managing the many medical conditions elderly people routinely face, and they may not be discussing voice and swallowing problems with their patients. Regardless, Cohen says the Duke data shows that needs to change. 

“Our results highlight the need for better education of the general public and, primary care providers,” Cohen said. “Whether this effort leads to increased awareness and/or better outcomes for these patients is the basis of further study. But for now, we know these problems have a significant negative impact on quality of life, and obtaining appropriate treatment can make a big difference.”

Email or share this story Bookmark and Share

Search CaregiversHome
Find with keyword(s):

Enter a keyword or phrase to search CaregiversHome's archives for related news topics, the latest news stories, timely times, and reference articles.

© 2008 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.


View The Caregiver's Hotline in which this article first appeared

Back to Top

Privacy Statement Contact Us Site Map Products & Services Our Partners Advertise
© Copyright 2003-2020. Pederson Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.