- Try These Remedies to Get Your Voice Back Fast
- 1. Rest your voice
- 2. Don’t whisper
- 3. Use OTC pain relievers
- 4. Avoid decongestants
- 5. Talk to a doctor about medication
- 6. Drink plenty of liquids
- 7. Drink warm liquids
- 8. Gargle with salt water
- 9. Suck on a lozenge
- 10. Take a hot shower
- 11. Get a humidifier
- 12. Boil some water
- 13. Chew some gum
- 14. Don’t smoke
- 15. Don’t drink alcohol
- Why it happens
- How laryngitis is treated
- Can laryngitis be prevented?
- Myth: Drink tea with lemon and honey.
- Myth: Slippery elm is a natural remedy for a raspy voice.
- Myth: Have a hot toddy.
- Myth: Whisper if you want to be heard.
- The Science Behind a Lost Voice
- Common Causes of a Lost Voice
- Misusing the Voice
- Serious Conditions Associated with a Lost Voice
- Risk Factors for Losing Your Voice
- Can Voice Loss be Prevented?
- How cold, flu, and allergy symptoms can hurt your voice
- The effects of allergies, colds, and flu
- Treating and avoiding long-term voice damage
- Laryngeal cancer
- Hoarseness or a change in your voice
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Weight loss
- Cough and shortness of breath
- Other symptoms
- 3 signs your vocal cords may be damaged
- 1. Two weeks of persistent hoarseness or voice change
- 2. Chronic vocal fatigue
Try These Remedies to Get Your Voice Back Fast
1. Rest your voice
The best thing you can do for your irritated vocal cords is to give them a break. Try not to talk at all for one or two days. If you must talk, do so quietly. This works because often irritation and inflammation just need time to resolve.
Overuse can hinder the healing process. So ahead and tell the kids that today’s game is, “Who can be silent the longest?”
2. Don’t whisper
Whispering is actually harder on the vocal cords than regular speech. When you whisper, your vocal cords are pulled tight. This can slow down their recovery.
3. Use OTC pain relievers
An over-the-counter pain reliever will make you more comfortable. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), can help reduce swelling in the vocal cords.
Shop for Advil, Motrin, and Aleve.
4. Avoid decongestants
It’s normal to want to take a decongestant when you’re struggling with a bad cold. If your cold has caused laryngitis, however, it’s best to avoid these over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Decongestants dry out the throat and nasal passageways.
5. Talk to a doctor about medication
Corticosteroids are a prescription medication that helps reduce inflammation. If you’re someone whose work depends on your ability to talk or sing, your doctor may consider giving you a short course of steroids.
Steroids have risks and are not suitable for everyone.
6. Drink plenty of liquids
Laryngitis is most often caused by a viral infection. Resting and drinking plenty of fluids will help you heal as quickly as possible. Aim to drink at least 10 eight-ounce glasses of water per day.
7. Drink warm liquids
Warm liquids like tea, broth, or soup will help soothe your irritated throat. Green tea, which is full of antioxidants, may also help facilitate healing. Drink warm liquids four or five times a day, or as necessary to soothe your pain.
Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and black tea, as they can lead to dehydration. If skipping your morning coffee is out of the question, just be sure to replenish your fluids with water or herbal tea.
Shop for green tea.
8. Gargle with salt water
Add 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water. The salt will help heal the irritated tissue in your throat. Try gargling with salt water two or three times a day until your voice returns.
9. Suck on a lozenge
A throat lozenge can soothe or numb your sore throat. Sucking on something also increases your saliva production, which will keep your throat moist.
Try a lozenge containing honey, which has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Shop for throat lozenges.
10. Take a hot shower
The steam from a hot shower helps moisten your vocal cords and soothe your sore throat. Adding a refreshing essential oil, like eucalyptus, may also help.
Dab some essential oil on your palms and rub them together. In the shower, bring your hands to your face and breathe deeply.
You can also make a shower bouquet. If you hang some fresh eucalyptus from your shower head, the steam will extract the healing essential oil. Plus, it will make your bathroom smell like a spa.
Shop for eucalyptus essential oil.
11. Get a humidifier
Your throat naturally dries out during the night. When you sleep, you produce less saliva and bacteria builds up in your mouth. That’s where “morning breath” comes from. When your mouth and throat dry out, your voice box can become even more irritated.
Using a humidifier while you sleep will prevent this from happening and help you maximize your healing time. Learn all about humidifiers here.
Shop for humidifiers.
12. Boil some water
An alternative to a hot shower is to hold your head over a pot of boiling water. The steam will add moisture to your irritated voice box. You can hang a towel over your head to direct the steam into your airways, but be careful not to burn yourself.
Breathe deeply through your mouth for three to five minutes. Take breaks if the heat becomes uncomfortable.
13. Chew some gum
Chewing gum also increases saliva production. Chew gum all day long to keep your throat as moist as possible.
Use sugar-free gum to avoid extra calories. There are also specialty gums designed to treat dry mouth, which you can typically find at your local pharmacy.
Shop for sugar-free gum.
14. Don’t smoke
If you’re a regular smoker or vaper, try taking a few days off. Smoking and vaping irritate the throat, and nicotine slows down healing. If you’re unable to quit nicotine right away, the best thing to use is a nicotine gum.
15. Don’t drink alcohol
Think about the dry mouth you get when you’re hungover. Even a little bit of drinking can cause dehydration. Alcohol can dry out your throat, which may further damage your voice overnight.
Read more about diagnosing laryngitis
Why it happens
In most cases, laryngitis is caused by either:
- a viral infection – such as a cold or flu, or
- damage to your larynx – usually by straining your voice
In these cases, most of the symptoms usually pass within a week. This is known as acute laryngitis.
Laryngitis can occasionally have other causes, such as smoking, alcohol misuse or an allergic reaction, and the symptoms can last much longer. This is known as chronic laryngitis.
Read more about the causes of laryngitis
How laryngitis is treated
Most cases of laryngitis get better without treatment within a week. To help your vocal cords heal, it’s important not to smoke, to avoid smoky environments, drink plenty of fluids (particularly water) and try to rest your voice as much as possible.
In some cases, it may be possible to treat the underlying cause of laryngitis. For example, if the symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction, you may be able avoid the substance you’re allergic to, or take medication to help control your body’s response to the substance.
Read more about treating laryngitis
Can laryngitis be prevented?
As laryngitis is often caused by a common viral infection, such as a cold or flu, it’s not always possible to prevent it.
However, you can reduce your risk of developing the condition by:
- making sure you have the annual flu vaccine (if recommended by your GP)
- practising good personal hygiene – such as washing your hands before and after eating and after using the toilet
- avoiding close contact with people who have respiratory infections, such as a cold or flu – particularly if you’re prone to laryngitis
- avoiding irritants, such as smoke or dust – particularly if you have a cold or other respiratory tract infection
- not smoking
- not drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol consumption
- not regularly clearing your throat – as this can irritate the larynx (try swallowing instead)
- raising your head with pillows when you’re sleeping – to protect your larynx from any acid reflux from your stomach during sleep
- not shouting or singing loudly or for long periods of time – it’s important for people who regularly use their voice excessively to receive proper training so they don’t damage their larynx
Oct. 23, 2008 — Losing your voice can be like losing an arm. Suddenly handicapped, you may find that getting through the day can be a mix of frantic gesturing and fumbling for pen and paper.
Voice loss can be brought on by lesions, polyps or other damage to the vocal cords, more accurately known as vocal folds. But even a simple cold virus can lead to voice loss.
“One very common thing is to hear patients come in when they’ve had a runny nose and all of a sudden, their voice is gone,” said Dr. Ramon Franco, medical director of the Voice and Speech Lab at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
As a working professional singer in Boston, Jessica Cooper finds most of her gigs take place during the holidays between September and May — the height of cold season.
“It’s happened more than once,” Cooper said of losing her voice. “One out of every three times I have a cold that happens.”
Healthy vocal folds, located above the windpipe in the throat, need to be well lubricated and pliable in order to vibrate rapidly and close fully, producing the best sounds. Irritation and inflammation can stiffen the folds so that they do not vibrate as well or come together completely, producing a rough, breathy sound.
Any extra stress on the folds, from a viral infection, singing or eating the wrong foods, can lead to voice loss.
In December, Cooper had to forgo her first performance with the Boston Baroque choir, one of the most prestigious musical groups in the country, because she lost her voice after getting a cold.
“Usually I can sing through the first couple of days ,” Cooper said. But after two four-hour rehearsals, her soprano voice was in no condition to sing Handel’s “Messiah.”
“I couldn’t sing at that level. There was no way my voice had the agility,” Cooper said. “I couldn’t just show up and open my mouth and pretend. … It was my first gig with them and I was upset.”
Cooper said she tries to focus on cold prevention in order to avoid losing her voice.
Visit the OnCall+ Cold & Flu Center
If voice problems persist longer than two weeks after getting ill, doctors recommend getting checked out. But there are some home remedies rumored to help regain a lost voice before that happens. Some methods may help, some won’t harm you and some should definitely be avoided.
Here are a few guidelines that might help you get back your lost voice.
Myth: Drink tea with lemon and honey.
There is nothing wrong with honey, but tea and lemon are both acidic, which poses a serious problem to anyone who wants their voice to return.
The vocal folds are made of delicate, epithelial tissue. Though food may not come in contact with them directly during food consumption (if it did, you would choke), acidic foods can trigger acid reflux, bathing the throat area in corrosive stomach acids.
“Spraying a little acid in the larynx has a lot more consequence than in the esophagus,” Franco said.
And the vocal folds are already subject to chronic low levels of inflammation because of normal reflux events that occur up to 50 times during the day.
Tomatoes, citrus fruits and chocolate are some acidic foods to avoid to prevent reflux and further damage to the vocal folds.
Visit the OnCall+ Cold & Flu Center
Warm drinks can be soothing, however, so herbal or caffeine-free teas are better options than caffeinated ones.
Myth: Slippery elm is a natural remedy for a raspy voice.
Tea or lozenges made from the bark of the slippery elm tree has long been used as a remedy for sore, scratchy throats because it contains a gooey substance meant to be soothing. Singers go for the remedy, but there is no scientific evidence showing slippery elm is effective at protecting the voice or healing vocal folds.
“People want to take pills and get better right away,” said Dr. Clark Rosen, director of the Voice Center at the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s tough to tell if it’s a placebo or real.”
But doctors admit that remedies such as slippery elm will not do any harm, particularly if someone finds it comforting to try it.
Simple and effective, staying hydrated is one of the best things to do when struggling with throat and voice problems.
Viral infections and colds, as well as some of the medications people take when they are sick, cause dehydration and impair the body’s ability to produce lubrication naturally.
“Moist is good for the voice,” said Dr. Norman Hogikyan, a professor and director of the Vocal Health Center at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Water can help bring back a lost voice by lubricating the vocal folds and the rest of the throat. The vocal folds vibrate about 100 times per second in men and about 200 times per second in women. Water is necessary to keep that amount of friction from wearing down the epithelial tissue.
“Vibration of that lining is the fundamental source of sound,” Hogikyan said. If it doesn’t respond the way it normally does, it results in hoarseness.
Water is also a major component of the jelly matrix that comprises the bulk of the vocal folds. Hydration keeps the folds at the correct fullness so that they vibrate well and are not too tense to close properly, which creates a ragged, croaky sound.
Using humidifiers or breathing steam can serve the same purpose, offering just a little more hydration to the sinuses and throat to promote healing.
“It’s tough to prevent getting a viral infection, shorten it or get rid of it,” said Dr. Clark Rosen, director of the Voice Center at the University of Pittsburgh. “We have to learn how to live with it and minimize the impact of viral infections to the throat.”
Myth: Have a hot toddy.
Warm and sweet with a splash of alcohol and perhaps a few spices, hot toddies could be considered the beverage version of curling up in front of a fire on a winter night. The warming drinks, fortified with brandy, rum or whiskey, were thought to stave off viral infections and soothe a raspy voice. But experts advise staying away from hot toddies.
“It feels like it’s going down there and cleaning things out,” Franco said. “You can drink all you want but it won’t get down into the area that’s inflamed. And you’ll pay for it later.”
Sick with a viral infection and struggling to speak, the body is already in need of moisture. Alcohol compounds this effect because it is dehydrating. Hot toddies have no demonstrated curative effects and their moisture-sapping qualities make them less than ideal beverages for those who want to heal their voices.
In addition, hot toddies are often made with tea and lemon or orange, which promote acid reflux.
“In the end they’re actually causing more damage than good,” Franco said.
Myth: Whisper if you want to be heard.
Forcing sounds when the vocal folds are inflamed is not recommended for fast healing because it smacks the vocal folds together with more force than they normally use.
‘Mechanical stress causes inflammation on its own,” Franco said.
The extra stress on the folds, from whispering or even loud throat clearing, can exacerbate already inflamed and irritated tissues, increasing the time required to heal.
Resting the vocal folds and throat by keeping silent is one of the best ways to promote healing. This would include refraining from singing, minimizing time spent on the telephone and avoiding whispering or talking over loud music or crowds.
But a person’s natural tendency to want to be heard can interfere with this plan.
“People keep using or abusing their voice while they’re sick,” Rosen said. “The vocal folds are much more prone to permanent injury when they’re swollen.”
The problem is particularly bad for people who use their voices often during work, including singers, teachers, salespeople and radio and television personalities. Any extra inflammation or damage can affect them more than someone who does not use their voice as often.
“Whenever they get a cold, it seems to affect their voice disproportionately more than anything else,” Franco said.
Ultimately, for anyone, regaining a lost voice is simply a matter of time.
“Listen to your voice if it’s complaining to you because it’s probably telling you something,” Hogikyan said.
Even though we commonly associate a lost voice to getting sick, there can be a variety of reasons why someone loses their voice. Some of the reasons are very common while others are more rare but may be more serious.
If you notice that you frequently become hoarse, or lose your voice, make an appointment with an Orlando ENT to schedule your evaluation and rule out any serious condition. An ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor can determine the cause of hoarseness or a lost voice, as well as offer a treatment plan.
The Science Behind a Lost Voice
When you lose your voice, in most cases the larynx and area around the voice box has become irritated, inflamed or swollen. When the vocal cords swell, they cannot produce normal sound. Irritated or inflamed vocal folds cannot vibrate properly and the sound they produce is abnormal and sounds “hoarse.” When this occurs, even though you are trying to speak normally, it may only come out as a whisper. In most cases, losing your voice is not a serious condition and it will pass in a matter of a few days as the inflammation goes away. If it does not pass, it may be time to contact an Orlando ENT.
Common Causes of a Lost Voice
There can be a number of conditions which cause an individual to lose their voice. These might include things like:
- Acute Laryngitis
- Chronic Laryngitis
- Reflux or GERD
- Misuse or Overuse of the Voice
In a vast majority of cases, a lost voice is caused by a virus or bacteria infecting the larynx. The virus typically comes from some other type of illness like a cold, bronchitis or the flu. The most common reason a person loses their voice is acute laryngitis. This is usually brought on by a viral infection, causing the inflammation in the area of the vocal cords.
Misusing the Voice
Speaking may seem like a simple task, but along with breathing it incorporates the use of numerous muscles. Just like muscle groups, the voice can be affected if not used properly. Overusing the voice might include speaking too loudly for a long period of time, talking for extended periods of time throughout the day, using a pitch that is too high or too low, or yelling excessively. This can often be a result of occupational voice use.
Serious Conditions Associated with a Lost Voice
There can also be some very serious conditions associated with losing your voice. These might include:
- Vocal Cord Lesions (Benign)
- Vocal Cord Hemorrhage
- Vocal Cord Paralysis and Paresis
- Laryngeal Cancer
In some cases, overuse or misuse of the voice can cause benign vocal cord lesions. These are like bumps that appear on the vocal cords due to trauma. Nodules, polyps or cysts are the most common types of lesions on the vocal cords. Microsurgery may be required to treat the lesions. Sometimes when a person is yelling or shouting they lose their voice suddenly. This can be the result of injuring the vocal cords and causing a hemorrhage. If you lose your voice suddenly after doing something strenuous like screaming or yelling, it is important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Risk Factors for Losing Your Voice
There are some factors that can cause you to lose your voice. The three most common factors include: smoking, overusing the voice, and upper respiratory infections such as colds, bronchitis or the flu. An Orlando ENT can examine your throat to see if there are signs of infection. A culture of the throat may be taken to determine the type of infection, if any, exists. If a person has lost their voice for an extended period of time, the physician might do a laryngoscopy to look at the vocal folds. This will help determine the underlying cause of voice loss.
Can Voice Loss be Prevented?
There are a few things that you can do to try to prevent losing your voice. If you do lose your voice, the best thing to do is to try and rest it for about a week.
Here are a few tips that can help protect your voice from damage:
- Avoid whispering (this causes too much strain on the vocal cords)
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid “clearing” your throat
- Do not drink alcohol
- Use a humidifier
If your voice does not return after a week, it may be time to contact a local otolaryngologist and schedule your evaluation now.
How cold, flu, and allergy symptoms can hurt your voice
Many athletes think it’s perfectly fine to push through injury, even if it hurts. Of course that’s not usually a smart decision. Vocal athletes are on the same playing field – if you push your voice when you have a cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms, you’re risking permanent damage to your vocal cords.
Vocal athletes are people who use their voices for more than just casual conversation. These people are teachers, call center employees, ministers, public speaking professionals, singers, and more. When you depend on your voice to make a living, it’s important to protect it from damage.
The effects of allergies, colds, and flu
So many of my patients come to me saying they were sick, but they pushed through whatever they had to do vocally. That’s when they run into trouble and end up hoarse or losing their voices entirely.
When you push your voice through a cold, your vocal cords can swell, which can lead to a condition called laryngitis. When you develop laryngitis, pushing your voice is a very bad idea. Even if you’ve committed to singing in a recital or giving a 3-hour lecture, it’s best to postpone or find a substitute, or you may end up in trouble. Treatment for laryngitis includes resting your voice – using it too much can lead to long-term damage that may require surgery.
If your allergy, cold, or flu symptoms are causing you to cough and clear your throat a lot, or if you’re concerned that you’ve developed laryngitis, check with a laryngologist. Throat clearing and coughing are traumatic events for your vocal cords that can cause damage if the symptoms are not resolved quickly. Your laryngologist can help to optimize your treatment and help protect your voice to avoid long-term damage.
Treating and avoiding long-term voice damage
Most of us don’t really think about our voice as a tangible thing that requires care – until we can’t use it because of illness. When you get sick and lose your voice, you may think it’s just a normal part of being sick.
Hydration is huge for voice care because water helps thin the mucus that then lubricates the vocal cords as they vibrate. The vocal cords dry out quickly. And it takes a long time to rehydrate them. The best way to keep your hydration at an optimal level is by drinking plenty of water. Not tea, not coffee, not soda – water. Drinks that contain caffeine may seem like they’re hydrating you, but they’re really drying you out more. Unfortunately, your decongestant cold medicine may contribute to dehydration of the vocal cords. Of course, we always stress the importance of nicotine cessation. Not only because of the cancers associated, but also the heat is damaging to the vocal cord tissues.
Over time, your vocal cords can develop lesions, which are often considered a wear and tear injury from constant use and abuse of the voice. These lesions can continue to enlarge and make the voice worse and worse until surgical removal may be required.
Our team tries to keep people out of the operating room. But sometimes vocal cord surgery is necessary because of irreversible damage.
Before we operate, we almost always start our patients in a voice therapy program to see if the lesion will shrink and even go away. Reversibility is common with vocal cord growths, but they don’t go away on their own – it requires patience and diligence by both the patient and the voice team. Sometimes we can cancel surgery, which is wonderful for everyone!
There are several ways to treat vocal cord damage. But, like all medical conditions, prevention is key. If you’re sick, don’t try to push your voice. It’s disappointing to miss a performance or have to skip a speaking event at work, but it sure beats having to go through surgery to save your voice.
Having a hoarse voice for more than 3 weeks is one of the most common symptoms of laryngeal cancer. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, weight loss, a cough that doesn’t go away and shortness of breath.
The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.
Hoarseness or a change in your voice
If you have a hoarse voice for more than 3 weeks, it could be a sign of laryngeal cancer.
This is one of the most common symptoms. But many other things can cause a hoarse voice. One of the most common causes is acute laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx). This usually happens due to a cold, a chest infection or over use of the voice, such as shouting or screaming.
Smoking can also cause hoarseness because it irritates the throat lining (mucous membranes). Other causes of hoarseness include:
- acid reflux
- post nasal drip
- thyroid problems
Many people develop hoarseness as they get older.
Acid reflux is acid leaking from your stomach up into your oesophagus (food pipe). It can cause hoarseness, as stomach acid comes back up the oesophagus and irritates the larynx.
Post nasal drip means mucus dripping from the back of your nose down into your throat. This can happen if you have a cold, an allergy or because you smoke. It makes you cough and can give you a hoarse voice.
You should see your doctor if you have a hoarse voice for more than 3 weeks. Remember that it’s more likely to be due to a cough or irritation than cancer.
Difficulty in swallowing
There are many different ways this can affect you. You might get the feeling:
- that there is something small stuck in your throat
- you are completely unable to swallow food
- of some pain or a burning sensation when swallowing food
- that your food is sticking in your throat
If you experience any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks, then you need to see your doctor for advice and further tests.
Weight loss is a common symptom of many cancers, including advanced laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer. It is very unlikely to be the only symptom.
It may happen because you’re eating less due to pain or difficulty in swallowing.
You should see your doctor if you have lost 4 to 5 kg (10lbs) or more in a short time and you are not dieting.
Cough and shortness of breath
Some people find they have a cough that doesn’t go away or they find it difficult to breath. Their breathing may become noisy (stridor).
Shortness of breath and stridor is a serious symptom that should not be ignored. You need to see your doctor urgently.
Other symptoms include:
- a feeling that there’s a lump in your throat
- bad smelling breath (halitosis)
- an ear ache that doesn’t go away (this is rare)
When to see your doctor
You should see your doctor if you:
- have a hoarse voice for more than 3 weeks
- have lost 4 to 5 kg (10lbs) or more in a short time and you are not dieting
- are short of breath or have a cough that doesn’t go away, or your breathing becomes noisy (stridor)
- have difficulty swallowing
- have any other symptoms that are unusual for you or that don’t go away
Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it’s important to get them checked by a doctor.
It is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.
Do you ever open your mouth to speak, only to find that all you can do is croak or whisper? You may wonder what’s happening in your body when you lose your voice.
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You may experience hoarseness or lose your voice (get laryngitis) when the tissue covering your vocal cords becomes inflamed or swollen.
In another scenario with long-term, heavy voice use, callus-like growths, known as nodules can form on the vocal cords and cause hoarseness.
When this happens, your vocal cords don’t vibrate as easily. This can show up as vocal fatigue, vocal breaks or cause your voice to sound abnormal.
A symptom with many causes
Losing your voice is a symptom and not a condition itself, says Paul Bryson, MD, Laryngology Section Head and Director of the Voice Center at Cleveland Clinic.
“If you have lost your voice, you might find that your voice sounds rough, raspy, tired or feel like it takes a lot of effort to speak,” he says.
Most often, one of these causes is to blame:
- An upper respiratory infection such as a cold, cough, bronchitis, laryngitis or sinusitis
- Seasonal allergies that cause sinus drainage, throat clearing and laryngitis
- A vocally demanding job that requires you to use your voice frequently over the course of several hours, such as teaching or working in a call center
- Talking loudly, yelling or cheering, such as at a sporting event
If you can trace your voice problems back to one of these sources, then losing your voice once in awhile likely isn’t serious, Dr. Bryson says. If you rely on your voice in your job, you may find that it happens more often for you and may be more of a problem if you rely on your voice daily.
But, occasionally, losing your voice might signal that precancerous or cancerous cells are forming. So you shouldn’t ignore a problem that persists beyond two to four weeks.
How long should you wait it out?
Hoarseness is more likely to happen during an upper respiratory illness. You’re coughing, clearing your throat a lot and your voice may start to sound croaky or weak. This can linger from a few days to a few weeks, or even longer in some cases, Dr. Bryson says.
How long should you wait to see if it will go away on its own? It depends.
“If you rely on your voice for your job, make plans to see your doctor if your voice isn’t better in two weeks,” he says.
Risk factors such as a history of smoking, a history of cancer or other health concerns should prompt an evaluation for hoarseness that lingers beyond two to four weeks.
Here’s what to do in the meantime
While there is no quick fix to help get your voice back, Dr. Bryson offers these tips to soothe inflamed vocal cords:
- Rest. Aim to rest your voice as much as possible. Talk quietly and only talk half as much as you ordinarily would, or less if possible.
- Seek out quiet. Avoid loud environments. They can often force you to talk more loudly (or with greater effort) than usual.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Avoid dehydrating beverages, such as alcohol and those that contain caffeine.
- Use a humidifier. This will help keep the air you breathe moist, which can help soothe inflamed vocal cords.
- Medicate. Try an over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. This can help ease discomfort and vocal cord inflammation.
If your hoarseness persists for longer than two weeks to a month, talk with your doctor. He or she may suggest a laryngoscopy, a procedure that will offer a better view of your larynx.
“Our ability to better visualize your larynx can help us more quickly diagnose something that might need surgical management or medication,” Dr. Bryson says.
Some experts recommend visualization of the vocal cords before beginning prescription medications, such as anti-reflux medications, steroids or antibiotics.
The bottom line? Most of the time your laryngitis will resolve itself in a week or two, with no lasting effects. But if the problem lingers on toward a month, it’s a good idea to get checked by a otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat) doctor to make sure there isn’t something serious at work.
3 signs your vocal cords may be damaged
Everyone at one time or another loses their voice or experiences hoarseness – such as when we have a bad cold, or the morning after singing at a loud concert, or cheering at a sports event.
While these conditions can temporarily damage our vocal cords, with a little care – such as vocal rest and good hydration – we should recover fairly quickly.
Sometimes, though, vocal problems persist, and that’s when you need to take action to avoid long-term or permanent damage. Here are three signs you should seek voice care.
1. Two weeks of persistent hoarseness or voice change
Hoarseness is a general term that can encompass a wide range of sounds, such as a raspy or breathy voice. While hoarseness often is caused by a cold or extended periods of talking or yelling, it also can be a symptom of a more serious condition such as a growth on the vocal cords, including polyps or cysts.
Many of these growths often can be treated through voice therapy, although surgery may be required. As with most medical conditions, early detection is key. If you experience a voice change such as hoarseness for two weeks or more, make an appointment to see a laryngologist.
2. Chronic vocal fatigue
Vocal fatigue can result from overuse of the voice. We often see this in professional voice users – such as teachers, singers, and call center employees.
Just like your legs can get tired from running, your voice can get tired when you use it for a long time. Our voice therapists recommend that for every 90 minutes of voice use, you need 10 minutes of voice rest. Overuse can damage the vocal cords, and if you often find you have lost your voice by the end of the day or after an hour of singing, your vocal cords may be experiencing tissue damage.
A laryngologist will examine your vocal cords for growths or other conditions and may recommend voice therapy to learn techniques that reduce the stress on your vocal cords, and hopefully help to reverse any tissue damage. These therapy techniques focus on the fundamentals of voice production and re-balancing the vocal subsystems. Therapy is individualized to each voice user and his/her vocal demands.