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Counties Manukau Health ENT - Otorhinolaryngology (ORL)

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Hoarseness

Voice difficulties can be experienced in a number of ways including hoarseness; loss of voice or reduced volume; strain/pain in the throat or voice box when talking; changes in the pitch of the voice (either higher or lower than usual); or running out of breath when talking.
 
The most common cause of hoarseness is laryngitis (inflammation of the vocal cords) which is usually associated with a viral infection but can also be the result of irritation caused by overuse of your voice e.g. excessive singing, cheering, loud talking.
 
Other causes of hoarseness include:
  • nodules on the vocal cords – these may develop after using your voice too much or too loudly over a long period of time
  • smoking
  • gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – stomach acid comes back up the oesophagus and irritates the vocal cords. This is a common cause of hoarseness in older people
  • allergies
  • polyps on the vocal cords
  • glandular problems
  • tumours
  • stress / poor voice use
 
Diagnostic tests may include viewing the vocal cords with a mirror at the back of your throat or by inserting a small flexible tube with a camera on the end (endoscope) through your nose or mouth. Sometimes tests may be done to analyse the sounds of your voice.
 
Treatment depends on the cause of the hoarseness and may include resting your voice or changing how it is used, avoiding smoking, medication to slow stomach acid production and sometimes surgical removal of nodules or polyps.  
 
The Speech Language Therapist will provide advice for looking after your voice and arrange a course of voice therapy if appropriate.

This page was last updated at 11:47AM on November 26, 2020.