Hoarseness refers to any abnormality of the voice and can manifest as changes in vocal characteristics resulting in a breathy, raspy, rough or strained quality with differences in projection or pitch.

Hoarseness from a cold or flu may be evaluated by family physicians, pediatricians, and internists. When hoarseness lasts longer than 2 weeks or has no obvious cause, it should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor). This is also true if the hoarseness is accompanied by coughing up blood, a lump in the throat or difficulty in swallowing.

How is hoarseness evaluated?

Your physician will obtain a thorough history of the hoarseness and general health. He will examine the vocal cords with either a mirror placed in the back of the mouth or a very small, lighted flexible tube (fiber optic scope) is passed through the nose in order to view the vocal cords.

How is hoarseness 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. Dr. Lieberman may make some recommendations about voice use behavior or refer the patient to a speech pathologist. In some instances, he may recommend surgery to perform a biopsy if a lesion, such as a polyp or growth, is identified on the vocal cord. Avoidance of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke is recommended to all patients. Drinking fluids and possibly using medications to thin the mucus are also helpful. Speech pathologists are trained to assist patients in behavior modification that may help eliminate some voice disorders. For example, a speech 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 cord nodules.

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