Abnormal change in the voice is called hoarseness. A variety of factors can affect the voice and cause hoarseness. These include smoking, allergies, acid reflux, thyroid problems and trauma to the voice box.
The most common cause of hoarseness is acute laryngitis (swelling of the vocal folds that occur during a common cold), upper respiratory tract viral infection, or voice strain. Serious injury to the vocal folds can result from strenuous voice use during an episode of acute laryngitis.
Prolonged hoarseness can occur when you use your voice too much, or too loudly for extended periods of time. These habits can lead to benign vocal cord lesions, nodules, polyps and cysts.
Hoarseness can also appear in those who have neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or a stroke. A paralyzed vocal fold may be the cause of a weak, breathy voice. Very serious conditions such as laryngeal cancer can also cause hoarseness, which is why it is important to have chronic hoarseness evaluated promptly by an otolaryngologist.
What will happen at my visit to Mid-Kansas Ear, Nose & Throat?
Often Mid-Kansas Ear, Nose & Throat treat patients with hoarseness using a team approach with our otolaryngologists and speech/language pathologist. They will evaluate the voice and do a complete ear, nose, and throat exam, giving extra consideration to the back of the throat. This could include examining the vocal folds by larygoscopy or video stroboscopy. In some cases, special tests are ordered to measure voice irregularities, how the voice sounds, airflow, and other characteristics that are helpful in diagnosing and guiding treatment.
The treatment of hoarseness depends on the cause. Many common causes of hoarseness can be treated simply by resting the voice or modifying how it is used. The physician and speech pathologist at MKENT may make some recommendations about voice use behavior and in some instances recommend surgery if a lesion, such as a polyp, is identified.