Everyone suffers from hoarseness: your voice is different than normal, hoarse or almost completely gone.
Usually, it is an innocent phenomenon that disappears spontaneously after a few hours or days. If it takes longer, or if you are often troubled by it, there may be more to it, and you should consult a doctor.
What Causes Hoarseness ?
Possible causes of hoarseness
- The most common cause of hoarseness is an acute inflammation of the throat or airways, where the mucous membranes are swollen in the throat, or the vocal cords become inflamed.
- Wrong or prolonged use of voice. This often occurs in people with a vocalizing profession, such as teachers, actors, singers, market vendors …
But it can also occur acutely after a loud party, a concert or a football match where you have shouted hoarse to get out of the noise.
- Irritation of the throat and vocal cords due to reflux (gastric acid reflux).
- Quite a few older people also complain of hoarseness, a problem that seems to increase with age. This is rather a form of voting weakness.
- Irritation from smoking or excessive exposure to smoke, dust or other irritants.
- Some medicines (e.g., cortisone).
- After an operation in which you received a tube in your throat for artificial respiration, you may temporarily be hoarse.
- Some neurological disorders that affect the nerves or muscles, such as Parkinson’s disease.
- Benign swellings such as vocal cord polyps or cysts, vocal cord lumps or nodules (which can occur with prolonged wrong voice use).
- A malignant tumor, such as throat, larynx or vocal cord cancer.
What can you do when you are hoarse?
- Save your voice as much as possible when you are hoarse. If you continue to use your voice, you can become chronically hoarse. So keep silent as much as possible, and certainly not shout, shout or sing.
- Whispering is worse for your vocal chords than talking quietly.
- Avoid coughing, scraping off the throat and coughing.
- Try to breathe through the nose as much as possible. When breathing through the mouth, the mucous membranes dry out.
- Drink enough (water, tea …). This helps to keep the mucous membrane in the throat moist.
- Avoid temporarily spicy food and alcoholic beverages that can irritate the vocal cords even more. Also, limit the use of coffee.
- Stop smoking and avoid spaces with a lot of cigarette smoke.
- Wear a mouth mask if you work in a dusty or smoky environment.
- Rising stomach acid (reflux) can sometimes be avoided with a few simple measures, such as placing the head of the bed higher, eating nothing after supper, and so on.
When should you consult a doctor?
Always consult a doctor if:
- The hoarseness persists for more than three to four weeks;
- The voice completely disappears and lasts longer than a few days;
- The hoarseness recurs regularly, especially when you smoke and are over fifty;
- You suddenly become hoarse without an identifiable cause;
- The hoarseness is accompanied by other complaints such as a sore throat, radiating pain to the ear, swallowing …