The Sounds Of Silence: When A Car Crash Results In A Vocal Cord Injury

If you or a loved one is in a minor to moderate car accident, the injuries you're probably most concerned about include lacerations, broken bones and head trauma. But one of the more common accident injuries is damage to the larynx, an organ in the neck where the vocal cords are housed.

What Happens When Your Larynx is Injured?

Your vocal cords, which reside at the entrance of your throat, or trachea, actually vibrate when they work to produce noise for talking. If they're not working, they're relaxing to keep the throat open for breathing or blocking off the trachea when you eat or drink so you don't choke.

They can become fully or partially paralyzed when the nerve impulses that travel to your larynx are disrupted as the result of a throat injury, such as might happen in a car accident. You can't produce the full range of sound that you're used to, so communication becomes difficult; depending on the severity of the accident, you might also have trouble breathing.

It's actually fairly easy to damage the vocal cords with any injury to the head or neck, and sometimes even the chest. This is often temporary, but a moderate accident could result in permanent paralysis and damage.

How Do You Know If You've Injured Your Larynx?

Sometimes, your injury isn't immediately apparent. While you're busy checking for obvious physical injuries and bleeding, the state of your voice may take a back seat. But signs can pop up hours or days after your accident, so it's helpful to know what issues can signal a vocal cord injury.

See a doctor if you experience the following symptoms shortly after a car crash:

  • A consistently hoarse or wispy voice or trouble talking loudly
  • Becoming out of breath from normal talking
  • Loud breathing
  • Trouble swallowing and/or choking and coughing while trying to swallow
  • Reduced gag reflex
  • Need to regularly clear throat with inefficient results
  • Problems with vocal pitch or singing

It's better to have a medical professional check your larynx than to risk having the injury worsen to the point where breathing is difficult. If damage is suspected, your regular doctor will likely refer you to a otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) for further testing.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Vocal Cord Injury?

You may have sustained an injury that will prevent you from speaking with the same tone or timbre which you had before the accident. However, therapy with a qualified voice expert can help you strengthen the vocal cords and improve your ability to breathe. Sometimes this can take months or years, and full recovery is not possible.

Often, surgery is required for moderate to major vocal cord damage. Your doctor may want you to wait for several months or even a year to assess the damage and see what healing takes place naturally.

If you've injured your larynx or sustained other injuries in a motor vehicle accident, talk to a car crash attorney who can help you recover damages. For more information, contact The Jaklitsch Law Group or a similar firm.