Hoarseness is when the voice is breathy, raspy, strained or showing changes in volume and pitch. Hoarseness occurs as a result of a problem such as swelling or lumps on the vocal cords.
When the vocal cords are working properly, the vocal folds that produce sound from the voice box or larynx remain apart while breathing. To produce speech or singing, the vocal folds come together as air leaves the lungs and causes them to vibrate.
There are several causes of hoarseness, but most cases are caused by acute laryngitis. This is caused by a swelling of the vocal folds due to a cold, respiratory infection, viral infection or vocal strain. Vocal strain is typically a result of voice misuse or strenuous voice use. This happens when people use their voice excessively, speak in noisy settings, use the telephone with the handset cradled to the shoulder, use an inappropriate pitch and fail to use amplification while speaking publicly.
Other causes of hoarseness include benign vocal cord lesions, vocal hemorrhage, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPRD), smoking, neurological diseases or disorders, allergies, thyroid problems and trauma to the voice box.
Treatment for hoarseness often includes rest; however, the condition should be evaluated by a doctor such as a primary care physician, pediatrician or otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist). They will look at the vocal folds with either a mirror or a small, lighted fiber optic scope. If the doctor identifies the cause requires medical intervention, they may treat the cause of the hoarseness with medication or surgery.
You should seek medical attention from an otolaryngologist if the hoarseness lasts longer than three weeks, you do not have a cold or flu, are coughing up blood, have difficulty swallowing, feel a lump in the neck, feel pain when speaking or need your voice for performing and are unable to perform.
If you or someone you care for is experiencing hoarseness, please contact our office at 717-728-9700 to schedule an appointment.