What is Spasmodic Dysphonia?

Spasmodic dysphonia (SD), a focal form of dystonia, is a neurological voice disorder that involves "spasms" of the vocal cords causing interruptions of speech and affecting the voice quality. SD can cause the voice to break up or to have a tight, strained, or strangled quality.

NSDA news

Register now for the 2019 NSDA Symposium

The National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association invites you to attend the 2019 NSDA Symposium on Saturday, April 27, in Boston, MA! We will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the NSDA. Join us for fellowship, education, and fun. The event will host some of the leading experts in the field of spasmodic dysphonia and related voice conditions while providing the opportunity to meet others who share a similar experience. Learn more and register by clicking here. We hope you can join us in Boston!   More...

What can you expect if you attend this meeting?

Meeting others and sharing YOUR story about living with a voice condition at the Welcome Party on Friday evening prior to the symposium, and, if a first-time attendee, sign up for the SD Ambassador Program;

Updates on the latest developments, including cutting-edge research, on spasmodic dysphonia from experts in the fields of laryngology and speech and language pathology;

Your questions answered during panel discussions with the medical presenters.

Participate in research studies for spasmodic dysphonia.

Launch of the new NSDA book, Celebrating Our Voice.

After a day of learning, relax with us on Saturday evening for an optional dinner after the symposium. Plan to stay longer and explore Boston with us! We have an optional City Tour of Boston on Sunday morning. And then in the afternoon, take in a baseball game at historic Fenway Park with the 2018 World Series Champions Boston Red Sox! 

Confirmed Medical Speakers: 

Robert Bastian | Gerald Berke | Andrew Blitzer | Glenn Bunting | Thomas Carroll | Christie DeLuca | Gregory Grillone | Christopher Honey | Teresa Kimberley | Laurie Ozelius | Michael Pitman | Franco Ramon | Kristina Simonyan | Phillip Song

Keynote Speaker: John Edwardson
Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CDW and Former President of United Airlines 

Research Opportunities
There will be ample of opportunities to interact with scientists working on discovering the causes and mechanisms of spasmodic dysphonia as well as to directly participate in research studies benefiting the understanding of this disorder and the development of new treatment options while attending the symposium. More information will be provided to interested attendees after registration.

Spasmodic Dysphonia: More Than Just a Voice in a Movie

Actress Lupita Nyong'o recently shared that the sound of the voice of Red, her evil doppelgänger character in the new Jordan Peele movie, Us, was inspired by the voice of Robert Kennedy, Jr.* Mr. Kennedy suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder that affects the voice. The most evil part of this voice condition is the life-changing impact it can have on those coping with it daily. It can rob a person’s ability to speak and communicate clearly. More...

Normally, when a person speaks, the vocal cords vibrate in a synchronous manner. When a person has spasmodic dysphonia, the vocal cords will go into a spasm resulting in a very strained, broken, or whisper voice. The brain is sending the wrong signal and voice is impacted depending on whether the muscles in the larynx adduct (move together) or abduct (pull apart). 

One of the toughest parts of having a disability is that people make assumptions based on the way you walk, talk or act, sometimes with little understanding of what is causing it. While this portrayal may raise much-need awareness about spasmodic dysphonia, it is important to understand that a voice disorder can significantly affect an individual’s social life, emotional well-being, and career. In a recent survey of people with spasmodic dysphonia, one participant shared, “Your voice is you. Your intelligence, emotions, abilities all come through in your voice… without it you become invisible.” 

We understand that hearing the unique sound caused by symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia was the spark of inspiration for the voice of this character. What it is difficult for us, and for the thousands of people living with spasmodic dysphonia, is this association to their voice with what might be considered haunting, wilted or a result of emotional trauma especially since spasmodic dysphonia is a neurological disorder. We applaud the work of Ms. Nyong'o and this opportunity to educate about this rare voice condition, but for the Spasmodic Dysphonia community, this disorder does not end when the movie is over. 

Spasmodic Dysphonia Quick Facts

Cause: Exact cause is unknown but based on current research, it is a neurological focal form of dystonia

Multiple Forms of Spasmodic Dysphonia: Adductor, Abductor, Mixed

Other voice conditions including vocal tremor and muscle tension dysphonia may be present

Common Treatments: Voice Therapy, Botulinum Toxin Injections, Surgical Interventions

Prevalence: Estimated 1 person per 100,000 in the United States, but SD is often is misdiagnosed or undiagnosed so prevalence may be higher

Age of Onset: Typically 40-to-60 years-old but can occur even younger and often more common in women

*Reference to Spasmodic Dysphonia and Robert Kennedy, Jr. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/20/arts/lupita-nyongo-us.html

Latest Issue of Our Voice Available for Download

Our latest 36-page issue of the NSDA newsletter, Our Voice, is packed with updates on research, treatment (including the article on Type 2 Thyroplasty), NSDA updates, personal stories of success, and so much more! We hope you enjoy it and share it with your family and friends, too! Click here to download it.   More...

Giving thanks to You!

During this wonderful time of year, we celebrate the people in our lives who give us the support and love we need to make a difference. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association! We hope you like this special 2018 Thank You Video highlighting some of the great people and programs that make our NSDA community stronger. So many contribute in different ways, and we are grateful to all of them!  More...

Together, we will continue to work to improve the lives of people affected by spasmodic dysphonia and related voice conditions through research, education, awareness and support.  

[News Archive]

Listen to Voice Samples

Hear audio clips of spasmodic dysphonia, and read about symptoms and treatments using the interactive device below.

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Meet Our Members
Meet Our Members

The NSDA is a grassroots organization working to improve the lives of people with spasmodic dysphonia. This shines through with our members who share their own experiences and knowledge to empower others with SD.

Our Vision

The vision of the NSDA is to ensure the ongoing viability of the organization that will continue to lead the effort to eradicate spasmodic dysphonia.
NSDA's Core Values

Our Mission

The mission of the NSDA is to advance medical research into the causes of and treatments for spasmodic dysphonia, promote physician and public awareness of the disorder, and provide support to those affected by spasmodic dysphonia.
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Contact Us

300 Park Boulevard, Suite 335
Itasca, Illinois 60143
Phone: 800-795-6732
Email: nsda@dysphonia.org
Fax: 630-250-4505