Impact of voice and swallowing problems in the elderly.
OBJECTIVES: 1) Evaluate the prevalence and quality-of-life impact of voice and swallowing problems in the elderly; 2) determine treatment trends and barriers to treatment. STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of independent-living residents in two retirement communities. Prevalence of dysphonia and dysphagia, voice-related quality of life (VRQOL), 7-point Likert scale of dysphagia severity, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale, and barriers to treatment were collected. Spearman correlation and ANOVA statistics were performed. RESULTS: A total of 248 residents responded with a mean age of 82.4 years; 19.8 percent had dysphonia, 13.7 percent dysphagia, and 6 percent both. Respondents with more severe swallowing difficulty had greater impairment on the VRQOL (P = 0.04, Spearman correlation = -0.4). Respondents with both dysphonia and dysphagia had greater depression scores than those with neither symptom (mean CES-D score 15.5 vs 9.9, P = 0.009, ANOVA, P < 0.05, Bonferroni t test). Only 22.4 percent and 20.6 percent had sought treatment for dysphonia and dysphagia, respectively. Being unaware of treatment options and viewing voice and swallowing trouble as a normal part of aging were the most common reasons for not seeking treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Voice and swallowing problems are common in the elderly, but they are not realizing potential treatment benefits.
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