A hoarse voice means your speech may be strained or raspy, and you may be speaking at a lower pitch or at a softer volume. Some people find their throat feels scratchy. Hoarseness is usually painless and does not often last for a long time. However, it can cause discomfort, be annoying or stressful, and might be a sign of a more serious condition. There are several possible causes: here we will look at some of them.
Laryngitis is one of the most common reasons for having a hoarse voice. It can be a result of a cold, a respiratory infection or allergies such as hay fever. In these cases, the best treatment is usually plenty of fluids, rest, over-the-counter painkillers if needed, and your usual allergy medication if caused by allergies.
Overusing your voice
If you have been using your voice too much (for example, singing loudly for a long time at a concert or cheering your sports team on), or speaking for a long time at a different pitch than you normally would, this can cause your voice to become hoarse. Drinking plenty of water and resting your voice should help.
Laryngopharyngeal reflux (throat reflux)
If you’ve been suffering from reflux in your throat, the acids in your stomach can irritate the vocal cords if they come all the way up the throat to the larynx. Throat reflux is also called silent laryngopharyngeal reflux – therefore you may not experience the typical reflux symptoms but examination of your voice box with a laryngoscope (a special camera ENT surgeons use) usually shows signs of this common condition. If this is the cause, then your doctor can advise on medications and dietary changes that will help. Dietary and lifestyle change is most important to change this.
Vocal nodules, cysts or polyps
A frequent problem for professional singers is sometimes called “singer’s nodules”: benign growths that develop in the vocal folds, which can cause hoarseness. Similarly, vocal polyps or a vocal cyst can cause the same problem. Your surgeon may need to operate on the voice box to resolve the problem if speech therapy hasn’t helped.
Some neurological conditions, such as a stroke or Parkinson’s disease can cause hoarseness if the condition affects the part of the brain that involves speech. Treatment will depend on the exact nature of the condition.
When should I seek help?
If your voice has been hoarse for more than two weeks or you’ll be required to speak or perform at an event, it’s wise to seek treatment. This is especially the case if you’ve not had a cold or flu, and very important to book a consultation if you can feel a lump in your neck or have difficulty swallowing. Mr Olarinde at ENT Sheffield offers appointments to suit your schedule.