What is Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?

September 18, 2021 Lifestyle Diseases 41 Views

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What is the meaning of Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?

An abnormal change in the voice of an individual is known as hoarseness or a hoarse voice. This condition is usually accompanied by a dry throat. The sounds may become husky, weak, breathy, or there may be a change in the quality of sounds made in case of hoarseness.

A sore throat and cold are the most common causes of hoarseness. However, this problem is not severe and resolves in about a week or two.  In this article, we will explain in detail hoarseness. 

  • What is Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)? 
  • What are the causes of Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?
  • What are the symptoms of Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?
  • How to diagnose Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?
  • What are the treatments for Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)? 
  • How to prevent Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?

What is Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?

A hoarse voice, also known as dysphonia, occurs when the voice becomes involuntarily breathless, strained, or low in volume or pitch. The hoarse voice and the feeling of discomfort or itching in the throat may all be interconnected. 

Hoarseness is often a symptom of problems associated with the vocal folds (or vocal cords) of the larynx (voice box). The vocal cords are the bands of muscles that are present at the back of the mouth whose movement causes the production of voice.

What are the causes of Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)? 

The causes of hoarseness include:

  • Non-cancerous vocal cord nodules: These are benign or non-cancerous growths that form on the vocal cords
  • Polyps (abnormal growths) on the vocal folds
  • Vocal cord paralysis: It is a condition in which one or both of the vocal cords are not able to move
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): It is a chronic (long-term) digestive disorder in which the contents of the stomach go back up into the food pipe leading to acidity and heartburn

( Know more about- What is Acid Reflux? Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention )

  • Allergies 
  • Breathing in of irritating or toxic substances
  • Smoking 
  • Heavy consumption of alcohol 
  • Trauma or injury to the larynx (voice box) or the vocal cords
  • Neurological conditions (brain-related conditions: Conditions like Parkinson’s disease, which is a neurological disorder that causes tremors and stiffness of muscles; and stroke, which causes damage to the brain due to a blood supply blockage may cause hoarseness)
  • Cancer of the larynx, thyroid, lung, or throat. ( Know more about- What is Thyroid Cancer? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment )
  • Excessive coughing
  • Overuse of vocal cords in form of screaming or singing
  • Presence of a respiratory infection, such as, bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tube linings that carry air from and to the lungs) or sinusitis (the tissue lining the sinus becomes inflamed or swollen)
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Injury to the throat by inserting a breathing tube
  • Muscle tension dysphonia: A condition in which an excessive misuse of the muscles causes a change in the quality of voice
  • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis: It is a condition in which non-cancerous tumors known as papillomas grow in the air passages from the nose or the mouth region leading into the lungs

( Know more about- What is Goitre? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment )

What are the symptoms of Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)? 

There may be many symptoms of hoarseness, but not all the symptoms are seen in one person at a particular time. 

Some of the common symptoms associated with hoarseness are:

  • Coughing
  • Having trouble swallowing food
  • Blood drops in mucus 
  • Smelly breath.  ( Know more about- Bad Breath: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sore throat and neck pain
  • Difficulty in speaking 
  • Difficulty in singing
  • Thickening of voice
  • Wheezing 
  • Lowering of voice
  • Sleeping problem due to coughing 

If you are at risk of a throat infection, you should contact your doctor without any delay. 

( Know more about- How to Clean Throat? Methods and Foods to Eat )

How to diagnose Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?

Before treatment, a doctor takes a complete history of your voice and general health for diagnosis. The voice box and surrounding tissue are then examined using a mirror or a laryngoscope (a small lightweight flexible device on the back of your throat). 

The voice quality is evaluated by the doctor and may suggest the following:

  • A breath sound may suggest impaired vocal cord function, which may be due to a benign(non-cancerous) tumor, polyp (abnormal growth), or laryngeal cancer. 
  • A hoarse voice may indicate the swelling of the vocal cord due to infection, a chemical irritant, exploitation of voice, or paralysis of the vocal cord.
  • A high, unsteady voice or a soft voice may suggest a problem in receiving adequate breathing force or air. 

In addition, the doctor may recommend the following lab tests based on the physical examination and symptoms of the patient:

  • X-rays: Foreign bodies can be detected by taking an x-ray of the larynx. For hoarseness that lasts for more than three weeks, the doctor may advise a chest x-ray to check for lung cancer, especially if the patient is a heavy smoker or drinker.
  • Blood tests: It is done to detect any infections and check for any abnormal blood parameters.
  • Biopsy: A small part of abnormal growth is excised by the doctor and sent to the laboratory to diagnose the condition.
  • Thyroid function tests: These tests are performed to check for any thyroid-related disorder which may be causing hoarseness.

In case of hoarseness lasting for more than two or three weeks, one should consult an otolaryngologist to exclude any serious disorders that may be causing hoarseness.

( Know more about- What is Asthma? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment )

What are the treatments for Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?

Treatment of hoarse voice varies depending on the condition causing the person’s symptoms. Some of the common treatment options for hoarseness include:

  • The voice should be rested for a few days, and one should avoid shouting, talking too much, or even whispering as this may lead to more strain on the vocal cords.
  • Drinking a lot of hydrating fluids helps in moistening the throat and relieving the symptoms of a hoarse voice.

( Know more about- Health Benefits of Cucumber Water )

  • Alcohol and caffeinated drinks consumption should be avoided as it may lead to the dryness of the throat and worsening of hoarseness.
  • A De-humidifier can be used to decrease the moisture content of the air. This helps in the opening of the airways and easy breathing.
  • Taking a hot shower will help in opening the airways.
  • Quitting smoking will prevent any dryness or irritation to the throat.
  • The throat can be moistened by chewing gum or sucking on the lozenges. This helps in the stimulation of the saliva and soothing the throat.
  • Decongestants should be avoided as they cause dryness and irritation of the throat.
  • Allergens should be eliminated from your environment as they can either trigger or worsen hoarseness.
  • If there are nodules or polyps on the vocal folds, surgery may be recommended. 

(Know more about- What is Laryngectomy? Causes, Procedure, and Cost )

How to prevent Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice)?

  • Avoid food that causes acidity, such as spicy foods, chocolate, etc. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. 
  • Take a bath with hot water and take steam. 
  • Keep your hands clean to prevent the spread of infections. 
  • The person should speak less when there is hoarseness and relax his/her throat. 
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
  • Take your meal two or three hours before bedtime. It may reduce acid production in your body. 
  • Avoid exposure to smoke. 
  • Those who smoke cigarettes and want to give up their habit can seek help from a physician. 

( Know more about- Home Remedies to Quit Smoking )

We hope we have answered all your questions about Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice) through this article.

If you are suffering from a sore throat and Hoarseness (Hoarse Voice), then contact an ENT

We only aim to give you information through this article and do not recommend any medicine, treatment, or home remedies. Only a qualified doctor can give you good advice and the correct treatment plan.

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