Common Cause Of Hoarseness
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Hoarseness describes abnormal voice changes. When hoarse, the voice may sound raspy, strained, or there may be changes in volume or pitch (how high or low the voice is). The changes in sound are usually due to disorders related to the vocal folds, which are the sound-producing parts of the voice box (larynx). There are many causes of hoarseness. Therefore, you should seek a medical attention when you have the symptom in order to treat it before there is a long term complication.
How vocal cords produce sound?
Before knowing the common causes of hoarseness, let’s have a look how vocals cord produce sound. Your vocal cords relax when you breathe to allow air to pass in and out of your windpipe. The vocal cords tense up and draw close together when you are about to speak or sing. The force of the air causes the vocal cords to vibrate. The vibrating vocal cords produce sound waves. Then, the lips, tongue, and teeth form the sounds to make speech.
Role of the larynx
- Serves as a conduit for passage of air to the lungs
- Produces vocal sounds
- Prevent swallowed material from entering the larynx which leads to the lungs, and provides a path for a food or liquid bolus to slide into the esophagus
- Prevent food or foreign objects from entering the lungs by coughing and other reflexive actions
Causes of Hoarseness
- Infection – cold, viral or bacterial infection of larynx
- Inflammation of vocal cords – excessive use, irritation
- Accidents – car accidents, neck trauma, injury from endotracheal intubation
- Tumor at vocal cords or larynx
- Laryngeal cancer
- Neuromuscular disorders – Parkinson’s disease
- Inhalation of irritants
- Caused by other conditions – Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), allergy, chronic cough
Symptoms that require medical attention
- Hoarseness lasts more than 1 week
- On and off hoarseness
- Worsening hoarseness, difficult to speak
- Other symptoms – chronic cough, coughing up blood, aspiration, swallowing difficulty, enlarged lymph nodes, breathing difficulty
- Drink plenty of water
- Rest your voice
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol
These should be done continuously at least 2 weeks. Most hoarseness can be treated by simply resting the voice or modifying how the voice is used. Avoiding excessive strenuous voice use can prevent further damage to the vocal cords and larynx.
Ways to take care of your voice
- Get enough rest – sleep 6-8 hours a night
- Drink 8 glasses of water per day (2 litres) to prevent dehydration (The temperature of water should be room temperature.)
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Avoid air pollutants – smoke, dust, chemical gases
- Avoid being near a patient with respiratory infection
- Avoid situations that require excessive strenuous voice use
- If there is an abnormal symptom, consult a doctor right away
- Avoid excessive voice use when you have a cold or respiratory tract infection
There are many potential causes of hoarseness that range from overuse to very serious. The important thing to keep in mind is that hoarseness is a symptom that something is not working right in your body. Not only is it important to make a diagnosis for treatment, but living with a hoarse voice can seriously reduce your quality of life and lead to chronic complications.