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Why Is My Voice Hoarse?

Few people completely avoid periods with a hoarse voice. It’s a common symptom of respiratory conditions like colds and flu. Your voice can be weak, gravelly, or raspy, and your throat can also feel scratchy, sore, and dry. 

Inflammation of the larynx — also known as the voice box — is often the cause behind these changes to the sound of your voice, and many conditions can cause this inflammation. When you’re dealing with a cold, you know your hoarse voice is temporary. 

If you haven’t had a respiratory infection, or if your voice is affected for more than about 10 days, it’s time to contact Sheridan Ear, Nose and Throat to get to the bottom of your croaky sound. Dr. Scott Bateman is a throat condition specialist, well-versed in the anatomy and mechanics behind your larynx and voice. 

“Normal” hoarseness

Changes to your voice that accompany conditions like respiratory infections are temporary and usually not a cause of concern. In fact, most cases of hoarseness don’t last long. Overuse of your voice is another cause of “normal” hoarseness, such as when you speak for long periods of time, shout, or otherwise overdo it. Your vocal cords can tire as muscles do elsewhere in your body. 

Generally, hoarseness of this type isn’t a major concern unless it persists, gets worse, or it’s accompanied by other throat problems, like swallowing difficulties, or pain that’s unusual or severe. 

Other causes of hoarseness

Besides overuse and respiratory infections, other causes of voice hoarseness can be either temporary or persistent. 

Smoking

If you’re a smoker, you’re three times more likely to suffer from voice disorders than people who don’t smoke. Tobacco smoke irritates the vocal cords, so not only might you have occasional, temporary issues with hoarseness, you could also be at increased risk for voice issues later in life. Smoking can contribute to vocal cord polyps, small growths on your vocal cords that can cause hoarseness, as well as to more serious problems such as throat cancer. 

Allergies

Hay fever and other allergies often create respiratory symptoms similar to those you suffer with colds or flu and with similar effects on your voice. Postnasal drip can irritate your vocal cords, and coughing to clear your throat may also create the conditions that cause hoarseness. Histamine reactions can cause your larynx to swell while, conversely, antihistamine medications can dry your throat out. Both can create hoarseness. 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) 

When stomach acid backflows into your esophagus, a condition commonly known as heartburn, your vocal cords can be affected too. If you have occasional heartburn, associated hoarseness is probably not a big issue. However, GERD is a chronic version of heartburn, so your vocal cords might well be affected, until your GERD is under control. 

There are other conditions and diseases that can cause voice disorders, so contact Sheridan Ear, Nose and Throat for diagnosis when your voice stays hoarse longer than it should. You can book your appointment online or directly through the office at 307-672-0290. Your voice is too important to go without, so book your examination now. 

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