Voice loss and hoarseness can be caused by numerous things. As such, there are numerous remedies for this common problem.
Acute laryngitis is generally caused by a virus, such as a cold. It is rarely caused by a bacterial infection, and therefore does not usually respond to antibiotics. When the vocal cords become infected, they swell and can cause voice loss or hoarseness.
The best remedy for acute laryngitis is to rest your voice (whisper, stay home from work if your job includes singing, speeches or a lot of teaching), drink plenty of fluids, and seek emergency care if you have difficulty breathing.
Chronic laryngitis is voice loss or hoarseness that lasts for weeks or even months. There is generally an underlying cause of chronic laryngitis involving irritant exposure such as:
- chronic voice strain
- acid reflux
- chronic sinusitis and post-nasal drip
- yeast infections (especially for those who use asthma inhalers, people receiving chemotherapy, or those with other conditions that weaken the immune system)
- chemical fume exposure
Hoarseness in People Who Smoke and Drink
Cigarettes and alcohol can cause benign hoarseness, but you should be seen by an ENT specialist if the hoarseness lasts for more than three weeks. This is particularly important in smokers and drinkers, since these habits have been found to increase the risk of throat cancer.
Lost Voice or Hoarseness Caused By Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can cause hoarseness and voice loss. When you lay down to sleep at night, and the acid from your stomach spills into your esophagus, it can affect the vocal cords. The best remedy for voice loss or hoarseness related to gastroesophageal relux (GERD), is to treat your acid reflux. This may mean making certain lifestyle changes, such as not eating before bedtime, or talking to your doctor about prescription antacid medications. Such drugs include H2 antagonists (such as Prevacid) and proton pump inhibitors (such as Prilosec).
Misusing Your Voice
Voice loss and hoarseness related to voice misuse is most common among people who are required to speak or sing a lot for their profession. Individuals who develop voice loss or hoarseness from loud speaking, over speaking, or misusing their voice may need to have speech therapy to learn how to use their voice properly. Misusing your voice can lead to vocal cord cysts or vocal cord hemorrhage.
It is important to find the underlying cause of voice loss or hoarseness. Seek an ENT evaluation if you're facing this concern.
Treatment of Voice Loss and HoarsenessOptions include:
- resting your voice by whispering or not talking
- drinking plenty of fluids and resting in order to get over acute infections, such as a cold
- getting evaluated to determine if you have a yeast infection (thrush); particularly important for those who have a weakened immune system or use corticosteroid inhalers for asthma
- getting treatment for acid reflux
- learning proper techniques of breathing, speaking, and singing
- avoiding smoking and drinking
- trying to reduce the amount of irritants, such as occupational dust or chemical fumes, you come in contact with
Although chronic hoarseness is often due to irritant exposure, other possibilities include cancer or neurological disease. As such, a careful ENT work-up that includes examination of the vocal folds is required.
American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Fact Sheet: Common Problems That Can Affect Your Voice. Accessed: September 2, 2009 from http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/commonvoiceproblems.cfm