Hoarseness

How Are Vocal Disorders 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 recommendations about voice use behavior or refer the patient to a speech-language pathologist. If a structural lesion (such as a polyp) is identified, surgery may be recommended. Avoidance of smoking or second-hand smoke is helpful. Drinking fluids also helps to thin the mucus.

Specialists in speech-language pathology (voice therapists) are trained to assist patients in behavior modification that may cure some voice disorders. Patients who have developed bad habits, such 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 patient’s problem is specifically related to singing, a voice coach may help improve singing technique.

What can I do to prevent and treat mild hoarseness?

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Avoid dehydrating agents such as alcohol or caffeine.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Humidify your home.
  • Watch your diet: Avoid spicy foods.
  • Try not to use your voice too long or too loudly.
  • Seek professional voice training.
  • Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is injured or hoarse. Don’t sing when you are sick.

Who Can Treat My Hoarseness?

Hoarseness due to a cold or flu may be evaluated by family physicians, pediatricians, and internists. When hoarseness lasts longer than two weeks or has no obvious cause it should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor). Problems with the voice are best managed by a team of professionals who know and understand how the voice functions. These professionals are otolaryngologists, speech-language pathologists, and voice coaches.

How Is Hoarseness Evaluated?

An otolaryngologist will obtain a thorough history of the hoarseness and your general health. Your doctor will usually look at the vocal cords with a small, flexible scope (fiberoptic scope) that is passed through your nose. This is painless and only takes a few minutes to do.

When Should I See an Otolaryngologist (ENT doctor)?

  • hoarseness lasting longer than two weeks, especially if you smoke
  • pain not from a cold or flu
  • coughing up blood
  • difficulty swallowing
  • lump in the neck