The inability to communicate properly can create problems while our voice is abnormally deep or harsh. This condition afflicting our vocal cords usually arises from overuse or abuse of our vocal cords. Swelling of the larynx sometimes occurs alongside hoarseness.

Symptoms & Causes

Most people suffering hoarseness have suffered from irritation or injury to the voice box or larynx. When we speak or sing the vocal cords that usually vibrate freely can become restricted. Other causes can include stomach reflux, allergies, smoking, thyroid problems or cancer of the larynx. Symptoms can be a sore throat and abnormal voice that is raspy or cracks often. Most cases of hoarseness subside naturally with time and can be treated with home remedies. However, if problems with your voice continue more than two weeks, worsen drastically or begin to cause acute pain contact your doctor right away.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The best treatment for worn-out vocal cords is patience. With time and vocal rest your immune system will repair the damage done to the larynx and return your voice to normal. Avoid singing, talking loudly or whispering while your rest your voice. Don’t gargle or use decongestants. Consider stopping smoking if you do. Also humidifying the air and drinking water can offer relief. If you decide your symptoms are too severe or lasting too long then schedule an appointment. Our physicians will ask you some questions and may perform a laryngoscopy, throat culture or might order an X-ray or CT scan. Depending upon the results we may prescribe medication or alternative treatment plan based on the diagnosis (ie. allergies, bronchitis, laryngitis, vocal over-use).

Prevention

There are lifestyle choices you can make to prevent your risk of suffering hoarseness. Drinking lots of water, avoiding spicy and acidic foods, limiting alcohol and caffeine and not smoking are effective ways to minimize hoarseness. The single largest factor may be avoiding the overuse or abuse of your voice. Don’t clear your throat often, shout, or whisper too much at a stretch. Performers and public speakers should try to utilize a microphone and speaker instead of raising their voice.

Vocal Demands & Voice Use:

  • Avoid excessive, loud, or strained voice use, including shouting, screaming, yelling, loud crying, cheering, etc. Avoid shouting from one room to another or across a noisy room. If you need to speak to a large group or over background noise, use amplification.
  • Avoid speaking in noisy backgrounds, including bars, concerts, in cars, over machinery noise, or power equipment. Avoid speaking over music, television, dishwasher, or running water, etc.
  • Avoid vocal injury by eliminating habit of throat clearing and coughing. If you must, attempt to do so gently and easily, but whenever possible, substitute a sip of water and/or swallow.
  • Don’t overwork your voice. It may difficult to do, but reduce talking time, or simply being quiet, will often help to renew a tired voice. Try to rearrange your schedule to allow for more voice rest.
  • Don’t try to speak without adequate air. Renew your breath more often while talking, and remember to take slow, deep breaths between pauses.
  • Project your voice properly. Projecting doesn’t mean shouting. To make your voice heard better, tighten your stomach muscles, not those in your throat or neck.

Midwest ENT Specialists offers an innovative Voice Center to support the needs of our voice patients.