Voice is the sound that is made when your vocal cords vibrate together as air passes through the larynx (your voice box). As the most common form of communication, your voice is an extremely valuable function. Proper care and use of it will improve the likelihood that you will enjoy a healthy voice for your entire lifetime.
Voice problems occur with a change in the quality of your voice, which can make it sound hoarse, rough, or raspy. People with voice problems often complain about or notice changes in pitch, loss of voice, breaks in voice, loss of endurance, and sometimes a sharp or dull pain when speaking. Other voice problems may accompany a change in singing ability that is most notable in the upper singing range. You may have a more serious problem if you are spitting up blood, notice blood in your mucus, or experience shortness of breath. If this is happening, you should seek immediate attention by an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist.
Changes in your voice can follow an upper respiratory infection (common cold) or bronchitis lasting up to two weeks. A cold can cause your vocal cords to swell, reducing their ability to vibrate and making the voice sound abnormal. Other common causes include behaviors that are traumatic to the vocal cords, such as yelling or severe coughing/throat clearing. Resting your voice and limiting its use often helps.
If your voice does not return to normal within seven to 10 days, a medical evaluation by an ENT specialist is recommended especially if you smoke. A change in voice is one of the first and most important symptoms of throat or voice box (laryngeal) cancer. Early detection significantly increases the effectiveness of treatment.
Learn some tips for maintaining a healthy voice here.
Members of the AAO-HNS Voice Committee answer patient questions about voice-related conditions.
The information on ENThealth.org is provided solely for educational purposes and does not represent medical advice, nor is it a substitute for seeking professional medical care.