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Hoarseness & voice problems

When your voice gets more raspy or breathy, changes pitch, or it’s hard to get sound out, that’s hoarseness. Usually a hoarse voice is caused by a cold or viral infection in the upper respiratory tract.

Hoarseness can be caused by:

  • Acute laryngitis, or swelling of the vocal folds (also known as vocal cords), which are the parts of the voice box that make sound. Laryngitis can be caused by colds or infections, or by straining your voice.
  • Overusing your voice by talking or singing too loud or too long. You might find you’re hoarse after cheering during a football game, or after speaking to a large group without using a microphone.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastric reflux, or heartburn. When stomach acid flows back up into your throat, it can irritate the tissues. In people with gastric reflux, stomach acid rises all the way up to the throat and voice box, and irritates the vocal folds.
  • Growths or cysts on the vocal folds.
  • Other causes, like injuries, stroke, thyroid problems, neurological conditions, or cancer.


If you think your voice is hoarse from straining it or because you’re sick with a cold, rest your voice as much as possible until it goes back to normal. But if your voice has been hoarse for more than three weeks – especially if you haven’t been sick – see your doctor. You also need to see your doctor if:

  • you are coughing up blood
  • you have trouble swallowing
  • you feel a lump in your neck
  • it hurts to speak or swallow
  • you’re having trouble breathing
  • you lose your voice completely for more than a few days

Our Physicians

Rex ENT Specialists at Wakefield can help you find the cause of your hoarseness. Dr. Esa Bloedon and Dr. Brett Dorfman specialize in treating hoarseness and other ear, nose and throat disorders in adults and children.

To learn more about hoarseness, visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

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