What is Chronic Hoarseness?
Hoarseness refers to abnormal changes in the voice. When a person’s voice becomes hoarse, it may sound raspy, scratchy or husky. Hoarseness is usually caused by a swelling of the vocal cords, which are part of the voice box, or larynx, in the throat. Hoarseness may occur in anyone, including children.
Hoarseness is generally a symptom of an underlying condition and not actually a disease itself. Fortunately, hoarseness does not usually last long, nor is it typically a sign of a serious condition. Most cases of hoarseness can be treated at home. However, if hoarseness lasts for longer than two weeks, it may be necessary to visit a doctor since persistent hoarseness is sometimes considered a warning sign of throat or laryngeal cancer.
How Can Chronic Hoarseness be Treated?
The treatment of hoarseness depends on the cause. Most hoarseness can be treated by simply resting the voice or modifying how it is used. The otolaryngologist may make some recommendations about voice use behavior, refer the patient to other voice team members, and in some instances recommend surgery if a lesion, such as a polyp, is identified. Avoidance of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke (passive smoking) is recommended to all patients. Drinking fluids and possibly using medications to thin the mucus are also helpful.
Specialists in speech/language pathology (voice therapists) are trained to assist patients in behavior modification that may help eliminate some voice disorders. Patients who have developed bad habits, such as smoking or overuse of their voice by yelling and screaming, benefit most from this conservative approach. The speech/language pathologist may teach patients to alter their method of speech production to improve the sound of the voice and to resolve problems, such as vocal nodules. When a patients’ problem is specifically related to singing, a singing teacher may help improve the patients’ singing techniques.