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Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

Hoarseness

Hoarseness is a condition wherein a person finds it difficult to speak because of an unusual feeling or pain in the throat that affects the voice.

Hoarseness affects the quality of the voice and is linked to a problem with the vocal cords. In most cases, the condition is linked to inflammation of the larynx - an organ located in the neck that protects the trachea and is involved in sound production. Because of hoarseness, the voice may sound weak, scratchy or husky. In some cases, the condition may result in temporary loss of the voice.

Hoarseness or loss of voice usually indicates that there is something wrong in the upper respiratory system, such as when there is an infection or a cold. However, if the condition is persistent, a doctor's attention may be necessary. A sudden inability to speak is already considered a medical emergency.

What causes hoarseness?

Some of the more common causes of hoarseness include:

  • Allergies.
  • Cough.
  • Inhaling substances that can cause irritation of the throat.
  • Laryngitis or inflammation of the larynx.
  • Excessive crying, as in children.
  • Excessive alcohol intake and smoking can cause benign hoarseness, but you should be seen by an ENT specialist if the hoarseness lasts for more than three weeks. This is particularly important in smokers and drinkers, since these habits have been found to increase the risk of throat cancer.
  • Too much shouting or strenuous singing. Voice misuse is most common among people who are required to speak or sing a lot for their profession. Misusing the voice can lead to vocal cord cysts or vocal cord hemorrhage.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux. When you lay down to sleep at night and the acid from your stomach spills into your esophagus, it can affect the vocal cords.
  • Tonsillitis. Acute of chronic inflammation of the tonsils can either be caused by virus or bacteria.

Hoarseness may also be indicative of the following conditions:

  • Aneurysms of the upper aorta
  • Cancer of the voice box (laryngeal cancer)
  • Presence of foreign object in the esophagus or trachea
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Thyroid or lung cancer

What is the treatment for hoarseness?

Hoarseness may be short-term or acute or long-term (chronic). Both cases are often given the same type of treatment. The typical remedy for hoarseness includes:

  • Resting voice by minimizing talking
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Observing proper breathing techniques in speaking and singing
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking
  • Avoiding irritants such as occupational dust or chemical fumes
  • Humidifying the air with a vaporizer or drinking fluids

Gargling does not help the vocal cords and may even worsen the condition. Also stay away from decongestants as they cause dryness of the vocal cords and prolong irritation.

Don’t talk unless it is absolutely necessary and avoid whispering as whispering can strain the vocal cords more than speaking does.

The best option would be to visit a general physician or an ENT specialist if the condition persists.

For innovative, state-of-the art facial plastic and ENT surgical care, come to SoCal ENT. To schedule your one-on-one consultation with Dr. Namazie, please call us at 818.986.5500, or you can use our online Request an Appointment form.

 

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