HOARSENESS

Hoarseness is a general term which describes abnormal voice changes.  When hoarse, the voice may sound breathy, raspy, strained, or there may be changes in volume (loudness) or pitch (how high or low the volume is).  Hoarseness is usually caused by a problem in the vocal cords.  Most cases of hoarseness are associated with inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis).

Hoarseness may be short-tem (acute) or long-term (chronic).  Rest and time are the only ways to cure hoarseness that is not associated with other symptoms.  Crying, shouting, and excessive talking or singing will only make the problem worse.  Avoid whispering.  Whispering can strain the vocal cords more than speaking does.

CAUSES

  • Allergies
  • Coughing (may be caused by allergies or diseases, such as bronchitis)
  • Excessive use of alcohol or tobacco
  • Excessive use of the voice (as in shouting or singing)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Inhaling irritating substances
  • Laryngitis
  • Prolonged or excessive crying (in children)
  • Viral illness

HOW IS HOARSENESS EVALUATED?

Doctor Kumar will exam the vocal folds with a mirror placed in the back of your throat.  Occasionally, a very small lighted flexible scope (fiberoptic tube scope) may need to be passed through your nose in order to view your vocal folds.  These procedures are not uncomfortable and are well tolerated by most patients.

HOW ARE VOCAL DISORDERS TREATED?

The treatment of hoarseness depends on the cause.  Most hoarseness can be treated by simply resting the voice or modifying how it is used.  Doctor Kuma may make some recommendations about voice use behavior, refer you to speech therapy, and in some instances recommend surgery if a discreet lesion, such as a nodule or polyp, is identified.  Specialists in speech/language pathology are trained to assist patients in behavior modification, which may help eliminate some voice disorders.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT AND TREAT MILD HOARSENESS?

  • If you smoke, quit
  • Avoid agents which dehydrate the body, such as alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Humidify your home
  • Watch your diet – avoid spicy foods and alcohol
  • Try not to use your voice too long or too loudly
  • Seek professional voice training
  • Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is injured or hoarse (this is similar to not walking on a sprained ankle
 
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