Aging affects whole organs of the body, and the vocal fold is no exception. Voice is produced chiefly from the combined activity of respiration, vocal fold vibration, and resonance. With age, all elements related to voice production deteriorate, and the mechanism of an aged voice is complex. Respiratory power is reduced, the vocal fold function is decreased, and the motor function of resonant organs such as the palate, lip, and tongue is weakened. The vocal fold often becomes thin and weak, which causes atrophy of the vocal fold. The vibration of the vocal fold is weakened with glottal insufficiency, and the voice becomes harsh, breathy, and weak. Control of vocal organs by the central nervous system can also be affected by aging. Treatment of an aging voice is difficult. Voice therapy consisting of respiratory training and vocal function exercise help to improve the voice in mild cases of dysphonia. Injection laryngoplasty or medialization thyroplasty is applied to reduce the glottal gap by augmentation of the vocal folds, but the effects are limited because the vibratory properties of the vocal folds are rarely improved. Recently, a regenerative approach has been attempted, to revive the vocal fold mucosa using basic fibroblast growth factor, which stimulates growth of fibroblasts in the vocal fold and modulates the function. Further research is warranted to improve therapeutic tools for age-related voice problems.
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