Your voice has been hoarse for several weeks and you don’t know why. Is this laryngitis? What could be causing it?
What is laryngitis?
The larynx is the voice box and is located in the lower middle part of the neck under the Adam’s apple. The vocal cords are within the voice box and are what vibrate to make speech. If they become irritated or irregular, the voice will become abnormal or hoarse. This can occur with infection as in an upper respiratory infection, trauma as in shouting at a sporting event or anything that irritates or changes the surface of the vocal cords including a growth.
How do you get laryngitis?
Laryngitis from infection is usually viral and clears once the infection has cleared. That’s an example of acute laryngitis. If the vocal cords are irritated and swollen from acid reflux or voice abuse, the hoarseness will persist until those issues are resolved. That would be an example of chronic laryngitis defined as hoarseness lasting more than 3-4 weeks.
Hoarseness that persists may be an early sign of a growth on the vocal cords and should not be ignored. These growths may be cancerous or benign. Hoarseness lasting more than 2 weeks should prompt a visit to an ear, nose and throat doctor. If you have difficulty breathing along with hoarseness, you should see a doctor immediately. Difficulty swallowing may occur with laryngitis as part of an infection or growth and also needs to be evaluated soon.
Diagnosing and treating laryngitis
An ear, nose and throat doctor can examine your voice box using a small tool called a fiber optic endoscope. This is procedure usually lasts only a few minute and can be done in the office. If a growth is found, the doctor will want a biopsy. This can be done with you asleep under general anesthesia. If the vocal cords are irritated from shouting, voice rest may be needed or even speech therapy. Acute laryngitis, if viral, just needs time to resolve by itself, much as a cold would. Antibiotics are not useful for viral infections including laryngitis.
At Advanced Ear, Nose and Throat Care, our physicians Dr. Michael Bard, Dr. James Batti, Dr. Dov Bloch, Dr. Anthony Fama, Dr. Jay Klarsfeld, and Dr. Jeffrey Monroe treat most conditions of the ear, head, neck, eyes, nose and throat, including laryngitis. Other conditions they treat range from silent reflux, ear infections, tonsil and adenoids, sleep disturbance, thyroid nodules and palate surgery to nasal polyps, and deviated septum sleep apnea. We are located in Fairfield County, CT in the towns of Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk, Ridgefield and Southbury.