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Avera Medical Group
Ear, Nose and Throat Yankton

409 Summit, Suite 2800
Yankton, SD 57078

605-655-1220
888-515-6820

Voice and Vocal Cords

Your voice is created when air moves past mucous membranes that are stretched over your larynx, better known as vocal cords. Proper care and use of your voice improves the likelihood of having a healthy voice for your entire lifetime. 

How Do I Know If I Have a Voice Problem?

Voice problems occur with a change in the voice, often described as hoarseness, roughness, or a raspy quality. People with voice problems often complain about or notice changes in pitch, loss of voice, loss of endurance, and sometimes a sharp or dull pain associated with voice use. Other voice problems may accompany a change in singing ability that is most notable in the upper singing range. A more serious problem is indicated by spitting up blood or when blood is present in the mucus.

What Is the Most Common Cause of a Change in Your Voice?

Your voice is most affected by colds and infections. If your voice does not return to normal within two weeks, you need to see a medical doctor.

Hoarseness

Hoarseness is having difficulty producing sound when trying to speak, or a change in the pitch or quality of the voice. The voice may sound weak, very breathy, scratchy, or husky.

Hoarseness is usually caused by a problem in the vocal cords. Most cases of hoarseness are associated with inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis).

Hoarseness that lingers for weeks or months may be caused by a variety of problems. Some causes are minor, while others are serious.

Causes

  • Allergies
  • Coughing (may be caused by allergies or diseases such as bronchitis)
  • Excessive use of alcohol or tobacco
  • Excessive use of the voice (as in shouting or singing)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Inhaling irritating substances
  • Laryngitis
  • Prolonged or excessive crying (in children)
  • Viral illness

Laryngitis

Laryngitis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the voice box (larynx) that is usually associated with hoarseness or loss of voice.

Causes

The voice box (larynx) is located at the top of the airway to the lungs (trachea). The larynx contains the vocal cords. When the vocal cords become inflamed or infected, they swell. This can cause hoarseness, and may sometimes block the airway.

The most common form of laryngitis is an infection caused by a virus. It may also be caused by:

  • Allergies
  • Bacterial infection
  • Bronchitis
  • Common cold
  • Flu
  • Injury
  • Irritants and chemicals
  • Pneumonia
  • Laryngitis often occurs with an upper respiratory infection.

Several forms of laryngitis occur in children that can lead to dangerous or fatal respiratory blockage. These forms include:

  • Croup
  • Epiglottitis
  • Symptoms
  • Fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Swollen lymph nodes or glands in the neck

Additional Information

Learn more about hoarseness and laryngitis.