Hyponasal speech is a symptom that can be described as voice with stuffy nose. Usually it is a banal symptom of common cold but long-term hyponasal speech can be caused by some more serious conditions. Chronic hyponasal speech itself must be evaluated as speech disorder that can hurt affected person’s social life, especially in childhood and teenage.
Common cold (rhinitis)
Regardless of the cause of rhinitis (typically viral infection or allergy) hyponasal speech is caused by inflammation and thickening of local mucous membranes. When the inflammation withdraws, problems quickly disappear.
Paranasal sinuses infection can be again associated with stuffy nose and hyponasal speech.
Inflammation causes mucus overproduction and sometimes even formation of pus. Nasal cavity can narrow and that causes hyponasal speech together with changed resonance of fluid-filled paranasal sinuses.
This group of pathologic conditions is an important cause of chronic hyponasal speech in childhood. Anatomical variations of nasopharynx and nearby structures may be associated with speech disorders.
This is a common cause of nasopharynx obstruction in children. Adenoid is a lymphatic tissue (tonsil) located in upper wall of nasopharynx and its overgrowth can cause problems. In addition to hyponasal voice, the child breathes through mouth, snores at night, in daytime he or she is sleepy and grumpy. The solution is surgical removal of the enlarged tonsil.
Nasal septum divides nasal cavity. If it is deviated to side, it can narrow one part and cause hyponasal speech. Nasal septum deviation is rarely a birth defect, more often it is a consequence of an accident. The solution is an surgical intervention usually performed by an otolaryngologist.
It is a situation typical for small children who sometimes stick small object into their nostrils. Such object causes pain, hyponasal speech and often a bacterial infection.
Polyps of nasopharynx usually arise as a result of chronic infectious processes or as a long-term consequence of allergic rhinitis. Large polyps can cause resistance to flowing air and cause hyponasal speech.
Nasopharyngeal cancer surely is a very rare cause of hyponasal speech, but it can not be completely ruled out. The cause in this case is narrowing of nasopharynx by tumor growth. For this reason, it is certainly appropriate to visit a doctor when there occurs unexplained hyponasal speech (especially in older men) lasting more than 2-3 weeks.