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What is Hoarseness?

Hoarseness is an abnormal change in the voice caused by a variety of conditions and impacts approximately 43% of US adults at some point during their lives.

Characteristics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Roughness
  • Vocal fatigue
  • Sound cutting out
  • Reduced loudness
  • Raspiness or strained quality
  • Breathiness
  • Changes in pitch
  • Muscle tenderness or soreness in or around the voice box

These changes in sound may be due to disorders related to the vocal cords located within the voice box, or larynx.

Causes of Hoarseness:

  • Common cold or upper respiratory tract viral infection
  • Heavy occupational vocal demands
  • Medications
  • Vocal abuse (screaming, yelling, singing out of range)
  • Talking too long or too much
  • Talking inefficiently
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Muscle tension in the jaw, neck, back, and shoulders
  • Thyroid problems
  • Neurological disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders
  • Trauma to the voice box
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (stomach acid moving up the swallowing tube into the throat irritating the vocal cords)

Experiencing symptoms of hoarseness?

If hoarseness persists longer than two weeks, examination by an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) is recommended. Persistent changes in the voice can be an indicator of a more serious problem such as cancer. The communicative problems associated with hoarseness can lead to withdrawal, occupational handicaps, and depression.