Hypernasality is often represented in film and tv for comedic relief.
While we love to laugh with these characters in our favorite shows, in real life it may not feel so good to have your nasally tone be heard more than what you or your child are actually saying.
That’s why we recommend that children with hypernasality work with a pediatric speech therapist early on in their speech development, to help their voices be heard.
If you’re unsure about what hypernasality is, or how a speech therapist can help you, read on to find out more.
What Is Hypernasality?
Hypernasality is a type of resonance disorder where your speech comes out nasally.
A resonance disorder is when the flow of air and vibration during speech is abnormal.
This could be from learned behavior or a physiological abnormality.
A person with normal speech capabilities controls the airflow through their nose and mouth by the use of a valve that separates the two.
This valve is called the velopharyngeal valve.
When you breathe, your velopharyngeal valve is meant to stay open, and when you speak it’s supposed to be closed by your soft palate (the roof of your mouth).
Hypernasality occurs when this process is altered, or obscured.
It can make the pronunciation of high vowels, such as U or I difficult to pronounce without sounding nasally.
Someone with hypernasality often sounds like they’re talking through their nose.
Think of Fran Drescher from the Nanny, or Steve Urkel.
In severe cases, other abnormal speech traits may be present.
Anybody can have hypernasality in their voice.
It’s more common for parents to seek speech therapy treatment for their kids’ hypernasality, but adult speech therapy can help as well.
What Causes Hypernasality?
Hypernasality can be caused by learned misarticulation, as well as physiological abnormalities.
The umbrella cause of hypernasality is when there is any form of velopharyngeal incompetence.
In the case of a physiological abnormality, your velopharyngeal valve may be too short or even unable to close.
Hypernasality can be caused by physical conditions such as:
- Cleft lip
- Cleft palate
- Neurological issues
Regardless of the cause, in these incidents, more air is entering the nasal cavity and creating the condition’s signature tone.
Even after a cleft palate treatment, you may continue to have a nasal heavy voice.
For adults, issues of hypernasality can sometimes arise as a result of one’s accent.
Certain languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Vietnamese, Thai, and others are considered to be more nasal than English.
As a result, when you learn English as your second language, you may speak more nasally than a native English speaker.
In these cases, accent modification speech therapy can help.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypernasality?
The primary symptom of hypernasality is having a voice that projects from the nose.
If you have hypernasality it may sound like you have excessive nasal resonance while creating oral consonants or vowels.
There may also be difficulties with swallowing or feeding.
However the majority of people with hypernasality list the tone of their voice as one of the only symptoms they encounter.
Speech Therapy Treatments For Hypernasality
If you or a loved one are dealing with hypernasality, a speech therapist can help.
Our speech therapists are trained to properly deal with a myriad of speech disorders.
Not only will we work with you in our office, but we are able to provide a personalized treatment plan that includes exercises you can practice at home.
Starting with a thorough assessment of your condition, your speech therapist can help identify the cause of your hypernasality issues and possible causes.
From there, they can assess your vocal sounds, and observe the path of air through your nose.
This is noninvasive and often performed by using a mirror and observing where it fogs up as you breathe.
Once they’ve identified the cause, your therapist can start to craft a plan for correcting your speech.
This may be accomplished through speech therapy alone, or in tandem with surgery if your therapist sees it as necessary.
If the root cause of your hypernasality is due to the structures in your mouth which are affecting the direct airflow, speech therapy alone won’t solve it.
However, speech therapy can be a massive aid for post surgery speech development.
Curious about what techniques your speech therapist may implement?
Below are some common approaches to speech therapy for people with hypernasality:
Altering Tongue Placement
By adjusting the location of your tongue, your speech therapist can help you fix your airflow.
In this treatment, the goal is to achieve and amplify lower posterior movement of your tongue.
With biofeedback, we use a mirror to show you the path of your airflow.
When you can see where it’s coming out vs. where it isn’t, it becomes easier to adjust and monitor.
Oral Vs Nasal Production
This means working with you to identify which one is which.
Identifying the differences can help you gain better control of it.
Volume & Pitch Control
In some cases, nasality can change depending on your volume & pitch.
Your speech therapist will work with you to find a pitch or volume that produces a less nasally sound.
Similar to oral versus nasal production, this technique instead focuses on how to identify speech sounds in other people as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that speech therapy does not cure hypernasality, it simply helps you better use your existing mouth and nasal structures to reduce nasality.
If you or your child have issues with control over the mouth and nasal area, speech therapy may not be as effective.
As well, there may be a more structural issue which speech therapy can’t help with.
In these cases, you may want to undergo surgery, or take a break and retry speech therapy when your child is older.
Book Your Appointment with District Speech
If you or your child have hypernasality, it can cause issues of self esteem and make it difficult for others to understand you.
Our speech therapy clinic can help.
Call District Speech today to book your appointment with one of our local speech therapists.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.