SLPs play a central role in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of voice disorders. The professional roles and activities in speech-language pathology include clinical services (diagnosis, assessment, planning, and treatment), prevention and advocacy, education, administration, and research.
SLPs are trained to evaluate voice use and vocal function to determine the cause of reported symptoms and to determine optimal treatment methods for improving voice production.
Appropriate roles for SLPs include the following:
- Provide prevention information to individuals and groups known to be at risk for voice disorders, as well as to individuals working with those at risk.
- Conduct a culturally and linguistically appropriate comprehensive voice assessment, including clinical and instrumental evaluation.
- Identify normal and abnormal vocal function, describe perceptual qualities of voice, and assess vocal habits.
- Diagnose a voice disorder.
- Refer individuals to other professionals as needed to obtain a medical diagnosis (e.g., unilateral vocal fold immobility as the cause of dysphonia).
- Refer individuals to other health care professionals when medical/surgical or psychological evaluation and treatment are indicated and facilitate patient access to comprehensive services.
- Make decisions about management of voice disorders and develop culturally and linguistically appropriate treatment plans.
- Provide treatment, document progress, and determine appropriate dismissal criteria.
- Counsel patients and provide education aimed at preventing further complications from voice disorders.
- Serve as an integral member of a collaborative team that includes the otolaryngologists and other professionals (e.g., pulmonologists, allergy and asthma physicians, gastroenterologists, neurologists, endocrinologists, mental health professionals, and vocal coaches or voice teachers), as appropriate. (See the ASHA resources on collaboration and teaming and interprofessional education/interprofessional practice [IPE/IPP].)
- Consult with other professionals, family members, and caregivers to facilitate program development and to provide supervision, evaluation, and/or expert testimony, as appropriate.
- Remain informed of research in the area of voice disorders, and help advance the knowledge base related to the nature and treatment of voice disorders.
- Advocate for individuals with voice disorders at the local, state, and national levels.
As indicated in the Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2016a), SLPs who serve this population should be specifically educated and appropriately trained to do so.