What is Hoarseness?

Hoarseness is a condition in which your voice sounds rough, raspy or breathy. The volume and the pitch of your voice may differ from usual.

How Does The Voice Work?

Your vocal folds (vocal cords) are located in your larynx (voice box), which sits above your trachea (windpipe). When you speak, the air from your lungs makes your vocal folds vibrate, creating sound waves. When your vocal cords are relaxed, your voice will sound deeper. When it tenses up or elongates, your voice will become more higher pitched.

What Causes Hoarseness?

Hoarseness can be caused by several factors, some are harmless while others can indicate a serious underlying medical condition. They include:

  • Using your voice too much
  • Common cold or sinus infection
  • Laryngitis
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Vocal fold haemorrhage
  • Vocal nodules, cysts, and polyps
  • Vocal fold paralysis
  • Muscle tension dysphonia
  • Neurological diseases and disorders
  • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis

Prevention and Treatment for Hoarseness

Some steps you can take to prevent hoarseness include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other fluids that dehydrate your body
  • Hydrate yourself with plenty of water
  • Use a humidifier
  • Avoid spicy foods
  • Refrain from using your voice for too long or too loudly

If you suffer from hoarseness, there are treatment options that you can turn to. Most treatments focus on resolving the underlying cause of your condition. For example, if your hoarseness is caused by laryngitis, you may be prescribed antibiotics or corticosteroids. And if it stems from other health conditions, such as abnormal growths in your throat, surgery may be required.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I worry about hoarseness?

If hoarseness does not go away after three weeks, you should see an ENT doctor.

How long does hoarseness last?

Hoarseness should resolve on its own within a week without treatment.

What virus causes hoarseness in kids?

A flu virus or laryngitis can cause hoarseness in children. It should resolve on its own when the infection clears.

Can you have hoarseness but not be sick?

Yes. Sometimes, using your voice for extended periods of time, or using it too loudly can cause hoarseness too.