Treatment for Hoarseness
Hoarseness is a condition characterized by difficulty producing normal levels of sound when speaking. It is typically a result of problems with the larynx or the vocal cords. The causes of hoarseness range from minor to medically serious, and treatments for the condition vary according to the severity of the underlying source of symptoms.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the most common cause of hoarseness is acute inflammation of the larynx, a condition known as laryngitis, which typically arises as a result of vocal strain or abuse, upper respiratory infection or the common cold. Treatment for this condition involves resting your voice long enough to allow any inflammation to dissipate. Despite the common perception, gargling will do nothing to help your symptoms. Speaking in a whisper is also ineffective and may actually cause greater strain to your vocal cords than speaking normally. You may also cause unintentional harm by constantly or repetitively clearing your throat. Resist all temptation to raise your voice, even if you only plan to do so temporarily. Straining your voice further after laryngitis is already present can lead to the development of growths on the surfaces of your vocal cords.
If you are a smoker, you will need to stop at least temporarily, and marijuana is no less harmful to your condition than tobacco. If you have a cold combined with hoarseness, stay away from decongestants, which tend to dry out the surfaces of your vocal cords. Also avoid coffee and antihistamines. If you take antidepressants, their drying tendency may worsen your symptoms. To gain relief from this and other sources of vocal cord discomfort, drink plenty of liquids and use a humidifier whenever possible.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
If you follow these self-care guidelines, your acute laryngitis usually improves on its own in a few days. If your hoarseness lasts for more than two weeks, or if you have trouble swallowing or breathing, see an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) for a full examination. Bring your child in for an examination if hoarseness lasts for more than one week or is accompanied by drooling. If your child is three months old or younger, see a doctor right away.
Treating Underlying Causes
Your doctor will try to determine the source of your condition. Potential causes include undiagnosed allergies or bronchitis, benign polyps or cysts on the vocal cords, nerve disorders related to Parkinson’s disease or stroke, direct injury of the vocal cords, and uncontrolled gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD). Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor may either treat the underlying cause of your hoarseness or direct you to a specialist better suited to handle your case. For example, growths on your vocal cords will require surgical removal followed by special therapy to retrain your voice.