What is hoarseness?

Hoarseness is a description when your voice sounds rough, raspy or breathy.

How does the voice work?

There are various organs in involved in producing our voice. Our voice is created when air passes our vocal cords. The air generated is from our lungs, which passes through our vocal cords. The movement and vibration of our vocal cords create sound.

What are the causes of hoarseness?

Hoarseness can be caused by many causes. Some of them include:

  • Excessive voice use
  • Recent cold
  • Laryngitis: There can be temporary swelling after a cold
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD): GERD is when stomach acids go up your esophagus into your throat. These acids can irritate the throat and cause hoarseness
  • Vocal cord nodules, cysts and polyps: These can form when there is excessive friction on the vocal folds. 
  • Neurological conditions: When muscles of the throat are affected, it can cause changes in the voice
  • Laryngeal cancer

When should I see a doctor?

If your hoarseness if not improving, you should seek medical attention. Your doctor will take a detailed medical history and thereafter perform a physical examination. An ENT specialist will be able to perform a flexible nasoendoscope to closely examine the vocal cords.

What are some of the most common causes of hoarseness in children?

Hoarseness is typically due to excessive voice use, such as crying and shouting. This causes a lot of pressure and predisposes some children to develop vocal cord nodules.

Other causes include having a recent cold, laryngitis and GERD.

How do I prevent hoarseness?

There are some simple techniques to prevent hoarseness such as:

  • Keeping hydrated and drinking plenty of water
  • Do not speak too loudly or for long periods of time
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine as this can cause dehydration