Why Is My Voice Hoarse?

Your voice is more than just a means of communicating. It’s an essential part of who you are. For many people, their voice is an important part of their job, too. So if you’re dealing with a hoarse or raspy voice, it can affect your ability to communicate and express yourself.

Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about hoarseness. You’ll learn what causes a hoarse voice and which symptoms mean you should seek professional help. 

FAQ #1: What is hoarseness?

Hoarseness refers to a change in the quality or sound of your voice. This change can range from mild to severe. Hoarseness often presents as a rough, raspy, or strained sound when speaking. A hoarse voice may also sound weak, breathy, or lower in pitch than your usual voice. 

FAQ #2: What is a hoarse voice a symptom of?

You may have a hoarse voice when you’re sick with a cold or other respiratory illness. But what if your voice is hoarse when you’re not sick?

Hoarseness can occur due to inflammation, irritation, or injury to the vocal cords. Your vocal cords are the tissue in your larynx that moves to create voice, also known as your “voicebox.” Common causes of a hoarse voice include:

  • Respiratory infections in which your vocal cords become inflamed 

  • Allergies and post-nasal drip, leading to vocal cord inflammation

  • Overuse and abuse of the voice, like excessive shouting or singing, which can strain the vocal cords

  • Acid reflux from the stomach, which can cause irritation and swelling of the vocal cords 

  • Smoking and chemicals in tobacco products, which can irritate and damage the vocal cords

  • Certain medical conditions like laryngitis (swelling of vocal cords) or vocal cord nodules (small, callous-like growths on the vocal cords)

  • Vocal cord paresis, in which one or both of your vocal cords are not able to vibrate or move

  • Structural changes that happen as you get older

FAQ #3: When should I be worried about hoarseness?

In some cases, hoarseness is temporary and goes away on its own. In other cases, it may persist and require medical evaluation and treatment. This is especially true if hoarseness interferes with your everyday activities or lasts longer than a few weeks. 

If you have a hoarse voice that doesn’t go away, it’s best to seek help from a doctor called an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist, or ENT). They’ll likely recommend treatment with a speech-language pathologist, or speech therapist, who specializes in voice disorders.

A speech therapist will evaluate your voice, including your vocal range, pitch, loudness, and quality, and then create an individualized treatment plan for you.   

FAQ #4: How do you cure a hoarse voice?

Let’s talk about voice therapy! Voice therapy is a program to help you learn to use your voice safely, correctly, and effectively. Learning to use your voice in a more effective way is important for everyone, especially for people who use their voice often for work, like teachers, hairdressers, lawyers, and salespeople.

Voice therapy may include:

  • Making changes in how you speak, such as timing deep breaths so that they power your speech adequately.

  • Identifying and eliminating harmful voice patterns (such as yelling, screaming, and making other loud sounds).

  • Improving your vocal health by drinking more water, avoiding caffeine, and making other lifestyle changes.

  • Using specific voice exercises designed to balance, strengthen, or promote the best vibration of the vocal folds. These help the voice sound better.

  • Stretching and massage to help decrease tension in your throat muscles.

Completing a voice therapy program has many benefits. It will help you:

  • Reduce swelling and inflammation in the vocal cords

  • Improve voice function

  • Reduce muscle tension

  • Enhance breath support

  • Increase your speaking stamina and endurance

  • Improve your control of pitch and volume

FAQ #5: How long does treatment for hoarseness last?

Voice therapy for hoarseness generally requires 1 to 2 treatment sessions per week for 4 to 8 weeks. However, the length of voice therapy for each person will vary based on the cause and severity of hoarseness, as well as other treatments and the person’s commitment to practicing new vocal behaviors outside of sessions. 

Voice therapy is a process that takes time. Be patient and give yourself grace along the way. It may take weeks or months of practice to see a difference, but stick with it, and you’ll see great improvements in the quality of your voice!

Tips for preventing a hoarse voice

Now let’s talk about some vocal health tips. The importance of good vocal hygiene can’t be overstated! While recommendations will vary for each person and their lifestyle, here are some general guidelines for taking care of your voice:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of healthy fluids, like water, throughout the day.

  • Be aware of your breathing: Take replenishing breaths as you speak. Avoid speaking on “empty air” at the very end of your breath.

  • Breathe through your nose: Breathing in through the nasal passages cleans and moistens the air before it reaches your vocal cords. 

  • Treat allergies or reflux disease: Work with your doctor to manage symptoms of allergies or reflux.

  • Take time to rest: Include at least 10 minutes of vocal rest (not using your voice) per one hour of speaking or voice use. 

  • Avoid exposure to allergens, toxins, or smoke: Anything you inhale touches your vocal cords. 

  • Practice speaking with less vocal effort: Lower the volume of your voice, or try not to “push” your voice out. Do your best to speak with ease. 

Teletherapy for voice disorders

If your healthcare provider recommends voice therapy, working with an online speech therapist can provide several advantages. Speech therapy with Expressable is just like traditional in-person therapy, but sessions are held online with video conferencing software that our clients can access from home. Not having to commute to therapy means more convenient and flexible scheduling, including on nights and weekends. 

By learning about vocal health and the signs of voice problems, you’re taking steps to preserve and protect your voice for a lifetime of clear and easy communication. We’d be happy to answer your questions about voice therapy! Schedule a free consultation with one of our licensed speech therapists today.

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