Why Does RFK Jr Have a Hoarse Voice? Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Rare Voice Disorder Explained

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s hoarse voice has been a topic of discussion among fans and the media. His voice has become a critical obstacle in his political campaign, and many have been curious about the cause of his speech impediment. In a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2007, he revealed that he has a rare disease that has distorted his original voice

The cause of RFK Jr.’s hoarse voice is spasmodic dysphonia (SD), a chronic neurological voice disorder that affects the vocal cords. It is a specific form of an involuntary movement disorder called dystonia that affects only the voice box

SD results in involuntary spasms of the muscles that open or close the vocal folds, causing a voice that presents with breaks and strained/strangled quality or breathy quality, depending on the type of spasmodic dysphonia (adductor or abductor)

Although the condition is not life-threatening, it is life-changing for the few who have it. Spasmodic dysphonia experts estimate that the condition affects only 0.02 percent of the population




 It often strikes in midlife between ages 20 and 50, and it appears in women twice as often as in men. Patients say losing their voice hits them in their primary, intimate connection to the outside world and affects nearly every aspect of their lives


RFK Jr.’s diagnosis of SD highlights the challenges of living with a rare disease and the importance of raising awareness about such conditions. It also underscores the need for more research into the causes and treatments of SD and other rare voice disorders.

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What Is Spasmodic Dysphonia?

Here are some key points about this disorder–

  • It is categorized as a voice disorder that affects the muscles of the voice box or larynx.
  • The voice can be heard as tight, strained, or strangled with the usual breaking-in sound.
  • There are three kinds of Spasmodic Dysphonia:
  • Adductor: most common type with sudden involuntary spasms that trigger the vocal cords to stiffen and close. Stress can trigger these spasms further.
  • Abductor: In this rare type, the spasms cause the vocal cords to open. The speech sounds breathy and quiet as the air escapes due to open vocal cords.
  • Mixed: this type is the amalgamation of the above two dysphonia.
  • Experts have inferred that the disorder stems from the central nervous system, caused by a problem in the basal ganglia of the brain.
  • Some of the causes are cold or the flu, injury to the voice box, a long period of voice use, or stress that may manifest into this disorder. At the same time, this disorder can also be hereditary.
  • Since this is also linked to neurological disorders, the overall speech treatment involves consulting with a speech-language pathologist, otolaryngologist, or neurologist.
  • It is also recommended to control stress levels to avoid worsening the disorder.

In conclusion, RFK Jr.’s hoarse voice is caused by spasmodic dysphonia, a rare neurological voice disorder that affects the vocal cords. The condition is life-changing for those who have it and highlights the need for more research into rare voice disorders.

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