By our Smarty friends at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.
Vocal hoarseness is something that can affect people of all ages. But what is hoarseness and how do you treat it? Otolaryngologist Darrell Klotz, MD, of Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. joins us this month to talk about it.
It’s a common occurrence: your child has been playing with sick children or has been running around yelling a lot, and before you know it they’ve lost their voice.
When people talk about losing their voice, many use “laryngitis” interchangeably with “hoarseness.” However, they’re not the same thing. Laryngitis is the inflammation or swelling of vocal folds, and is the most common cause of hoarseness. Laryngitis can be caused by a cold or the flu, acid reflux, overusing the voice and having bad vocal habits, and irritation. However, hoarseness can also be caused by benign lesions on the vocal folds, or possibly even cancer.
While no single age group is prone to voice disorders, people who use their voices the most – parents, for example – can have more issues with hoarseness, Dr. Klotz said. They are unable to rest their voice when they have even a mild case of laryngitis because many people depend on them to keep up their responsibilities.
If you or your child does come down with a mild case of laryngitis – caused by a cold, flu, or upper respiratory tract infection, for example – the best thing to do is stay well hydrated and rest your voice, Dr. Klotz said. Laryngitis is the equivalent of injuring your ankle and having it swell. You wouldn’t run on a swollen ankle, so you shouldn’t speak when you have laryngitis.
If the hoarseness persists for more than two weeks without improvement, you or your child should see a doctor, Dr. Klotz said. The hoarseness could be the sign of a more serious condition, such as nodules, polyps, cysts, or cancers, Dr. Klotz said. Though most of these growths are benign, the best way to avoid them is to pay attention to your voice and treat it well so they never develop in the first place. A breathy-sounding hoarseness, meanwhile, may be a sign of vocal fold paralysis, which is an injury to one or both of the recurrent laryngeal nerves.
If you child’s voice has always sounded hoarse, you should take them to a doctor for an examination. Dr. Klotz said he has seen many children who have had raspy voices since birth, but their parents never sought medical treatment because they thought “this is just who they are.” However, a raspy voice is not a typical condition and should be investigated.
The voice can be a window to the soul, Dr. Klotz said. So, good vocal health and preventing hoarseness is a great way to make sure that window stay clear.