Hoarseness - Causes

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If known, what was the cause of your hoarseness? Please describe your experience.

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What causes hoarseness?

Hoarseness is generally caused by irritation of, or injury to, the vocal cords. The larynx (also referred to as the voice box), is the portion of the respiratory (breathing) tract containing the vocal cords. The cartilaginous outer wall of the larynx is commonly referred to as the "Adams apple." The vocal cords are two bands of muscle that form a "V" inside the larynx. When we sing or speak, the vocal cords vibrate and produce sound.

Picture of the Larynx
Picture of the Larynx

Hoarseness can be caused by a number of conditions. The most common cause of hoarseness is acute laryngitis (inflammation of the vocal cords) caused most often by an upper respiratory tract infection (usually viral), and less commonly from overuse or misuse of the voice (such as from yelling or singing).

Other causes of hoarseness include:

  • benign vocal cord nodules, cysts or polyps,
  • gastroesophageal reflux (GERD),
  • allergies,
  • inhalation of respiratory tract irritants,
  • smoking,
  • thyroid problems,
  • trauma to the larynx/vocal cords,
  • neurological conditions (such as Parkinson's disease and strokes), and
  • cancer of the larynx.
Return to Hoarseness

See what others are saying

Comment from: Carol, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: December 17

I had the flu, the first few days I hardly coughed then started coughing a lot, the episodes of coughing were sometimes very painful to my throat. I started getting hoarse and it kept getting worse until I couldn't talk at all. I think when I coughed so hard, I've injured my vocal chords.

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Comment from: lndwelch, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 03

While vacationing I did a lot of snorkeling. After day one I developed a small mouth ulcer. Four days later I spent the whole day snorkeling, including a night snorkel with manta rays during which I inhaled a lot of salt water. That night my mouth was really sore and I had a sore throat, as well as couldn"t talk. The next day my mouth was covered in mouth ulcers - this was February 15th. It wasn"t getting better so on February 19th I saw a doctor who prescribed numbing medicine. The sore throat went away first - then the mouth sores finally cleared up the beginning of this week (Feb 24). The loss of voice and hoarseness are still with me and almost feels like it"s getting worse. Other than no voice I feel fine, no fever or soreness. I do have to clear my throat a lot because of a constant tickle.

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