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What is Hoarseness- its Causes and Treatment?

An abnormal change in pitch and volume of the voice is known as hoarseness. It may range from deep, harsh voice to raspy, breathy or strained voice.
Hoarseness is a symptom and not a disease. It is indicative of an underlying disorder or condition.

The reason for the hoarseness is an injury or irritation of vocal cords located in your voice box or larynx.

A most common cause of hoarseness is laryngitis.

Other causes of hoarseness include:

  • Benign vocal cord nodules, cysts or polyps
  • common cold or upper respiratory infection
  • gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • allergies
  • Inhalation of respiratory tract irritants
  • smoking
  • Thyroid problems
  • Neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s disease and strokes)
  • Cancer of the larynx

To diagnose your hoarseness, your ENT specialist or otolaryngologist will take a thorough medical history. He/ she will examine your voice box and surrounding tissue using a laryngoscope. Evaluation of voice quality is made.

  • A breathy voice may be suggestive of poor vocal cord function, caused by a benign tumor, polyp or larynx cancer.
  • A raspy voice may be indicative of vocal cord thickening due to swelling, inflammation from infection, a chemical irritant, voice abuse or paralysis of the vocal cords.
  • A high, shaky voice or a soft voice may be suggestive of trouble getting enough breathing force or air.

Your doctor will perform some Lab tests, such as a biopsy, x-rays, or thyroid function depending on the findings.

Depending on the underlying cause, your specialist will recommend the following treatment:

  • Cough suppressants and humidified air for acute laryngitis caused by an upper respiratory tract infection
  • Voice rest is recommended in order to avoid further irritation or injury to the vocal cords.
  • Cessation of smoke in individuals that smoke.
  • Medications for gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or allergies.
  • Surgery may be advised for benign nodules or polyps, trauma to the larynx/vocal cords and for cancer of the larynx.

Consult our otolaryngologist, Dr. Mohit Bhutani, at CMC for proper diagnosis and treatment of voice hoarseness.