This is a common time of year to develop laryngitis, which makes the voice sound hoarse. The most common reason to develop laryngitis is a virus or a cold. Inflammation will irritate the vocal cords, which are located in the larynx, thus disrupting the function of the vocal cord and how air flows through the larynx to produce a hoarse voice.
Most of the time laryngitis is short lived and lasts no longer then a couple weeks. Conservative management with voice rest, fluids, humidified air, and no decongestants – which dry out the throat is a great way to treat the symptoms.
However, we become more concerned when a voice has been hoarse for longer then 3 weeks. There are many things besides a virus that can cause hoarseness. Reflux is a very common source of a chronic hoarse voice. Irritants in the air, such as working around chemical or breathing in smoke can cause a more chronically hoarse voice. Other things would be vocal cord nodules, polyps, lesions, chronic cough, allergy/sinus problems, and cancer can cause the voice to be hoarse.
When a voice has been hoarse for longer then 2 weeks it is recommended you seek medical attention. In the office we will usually perform a scope to take a look at the vocal cords. This usually takes about 30 seconds and does not hurt. I tell most patients that It feels like sticking spaghetti up the nose. Obviously not the most pleasant feeling, but very tolerable!! In doing this we can often diagnose the problem that is causing the hoarseness, so that we can better treat your voice. And, to rule out any concerning problem such as cancer, which again, can cause a chronic hoarse voice.
If you have been having a hoarse voice and would like further evaluation, please call our office at 616-994-2770 to make an appointment. We would be happy to see you.