What is hoarse voice?

Hoarse voice is an abnormal change in your voice caused by disorders in the vocal cords of the voice box, or larynx. The vocal cords are normally open but make sounds by coming together when you speak, sing or hum. As air leaves the lungs, it makes the closed folds vibrate, producing the sound of your voice. When your voice is hoarse, it is an indication that these vibrations of the vocal folds are being hindered by mucus, swellings, obstructions or other changes in the surface of the larynx.

While any change in the quality of your voice can be referred to as hoarse voice, the features of your voice most frequently affected are either voice quality (producing a raspy, strained or gravelly sound), volume (weak or soft, breathy, croaking, fading or loud), pitch of your voice (higher or lower, depending on the cause), or some combination of these features.

Hoarse voice can be caused by colds, flu, allergies, talking or shouting for long periods of time, tobacco or marijuana use, other causes of inflammation, and, in some cases, growths in the throat (cysts, nodules, polyps or even tumors). In addition, reflux disorders (flow of stomach acids and digestive enzymes up into the throat) can cause burns that may make you hoarse. Less common causes include neurologic disorders, thyroid or hormonal disorders, and laryngeal cancer.

Hoarse voice is not usually an emergency condition. However, in fairly rare cases, hoarse voice may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have a hoarse voice accompanied by serious symptoms such as chest pain, choking, or severe difficulty breathing.

Seek prompt medical care if your hoarse voice lasts longer than three weeks (especially if you smoke), if you observe severe changes in your voice for more than three days, if speaking or swallowing become painful but you show no signs of flu or cold, if any change in your voice accompanies difficulty breathing, if you begin coughing up blood, or if you smoke and become hoarse (smoking is the leading cause of throat cancer).


What other symptoms might occur with hoarse voice?

Hoarse voice may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the respiratory system may also involve other body systems.

Respiratory symptoms that may occur along with hoarse voice

Hoarse voice may accompany other symptoms affecting the respiratory system including:

Read more about hoarse voicesymptoms


What causes hoarse voice?

Misuse of the voice, such as prolonged talking or shouting, is a common cause of hoarse voice. Other possible causes include tobacco use, marijuana use, and exposure to chemicals—even those found in some household cleansers—or pollutants.

Hoarse voice can also be a result of allergies, inflammation, colds, flu, or reflux disorders (regurgitation of stomach acids and digestive enzy... Read more about hoarse voicecauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat

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