‘Hoarse voice is a general term used for all kinds of vocal abnormalities. The hoarse voice may sound like “out of breath, rasp, stretched” or it can be “high tone and volume”. Changes in voice often arise from defects in the part of the windpipe called the “vocal cords”. These are two opposing taut tissues that look like the letter ‘V‘. While they are breathing, they are open. They get together when they speak or sing, and produce the sound as air exits the lungs.
The vocal cords vibrate as fast as 150-250 beats per second. The tighter and shorter the vocal cords, the faster the vocal cords work. Faster vibration results in finer sound. Swelling or mass formation in the vocal cords prevents them from coming together and closing, which causes a change in sound.
There are many reasons why the sound may be muffled. Fortunately, most of them are not important and disappear in a short time. The most common reason is the swelling of the vocal cords, which we encounter in colds, upper respiratory tract infections or as a result of excessive use of the voice.
Longer hoarseness is often the result of prolonged excessive, high-pitched or improper use of the voice. These bad habits cause the formation of hard masses known as ‘singer’s nodules’ or softer masses known as ‘polyps’ on the vocal cords.
Nodules in the vocal cords are common in children and adults who raise their voices while working or playing. These nodules and polyps can rarely develop into cancer.
One of the reasons of hoarseness encountered in older ages is caused by the acidic stomach contents going up the esophagus and irritating the vocal cords. Many people with this complaint do not experience a burning sensation in the esophagus.
The sound is usually worse in the morning and improves during the day. These people feel an obsession with their throat, sticky mucus or the need to clean their throat frequently.
Smoking is another cause of hoarseness. Since smoking is the most common cause of throat cancer, if hoarseness occurs in smokers, it should be examined by an ear, nose and throat physician.
Other rare causes of hoarseness are: Allergy, trioid problems, neurological problems, trauma to the vocal cords and sometimes menstrual periods in women. Many people’s voices change with age.
Who can treat my hoarseness? The hoarseness caused by the common cold or flu can be evaluated by the family doctor, pediatrician or internal medicine specialist who has learned to examine the vocal cords. If hoarseness lasts longer than two weeks without a specific reason, it should be evaluated by a specialist in ear, nose, throat and head and neck diseases. Voice disorders can be handled by a team formed by ear, nose and throat specialists, voice therapists and voice teachers. Depending on the cause of the sound disturbances, there are many features they put forward.
The ear, nose and throat physician will listen to a complete story of your hoarseness and general health. It will look at your vocal cords through a mirror or endoscope.
These procedures are easily tolerated by most patients. If necessary, acoustic examination of the sound impairment can also be done.
Treatment depends on the cause. Most hoarseness is done by changing voice rest and voice usage. The physician can specify how to use the voice, refer special people dealing with voice therapy, or perform an operation in the presence of obvious diseases such as ‘nodule, polyps’. It is advised to avoid smoking and fumes. Fluid intake is beneficial.
Voice therapists teach people with voice impairments how to use their voices in the voice / language lab. Sometimes people can adopt bad habits such as smoking, using their voices improperly, and talking loudly and shouting.
The voice therapist shows how these can be corrected and prevents them from happening again. If the person’s problem is specifically related to singing, singing teachers can help.
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