Suddenly the voice is gone – the main causes and symptoms of hoarseness

Yesterday you were still talking and laughing, today you can only hear a tired croak coming from your throat? Hoarseness is annoying because it can literally hit our voice and mood. But have we only strained our vocal cords … or is there perhaps more to it than that??

What exactly is hoarseness??

Basically, hoarseness is a symptom and not a disease in itself. Everything that makes it difficult for us to speak and makes our voice sound rougher, scratchier, more strained, quieter, higher or lower, falls under this term. Our larynx and the so-called vocal folds or vocal cords in the throat, which influence the sound of the voice, are responsible for this. If, due to an inflammation or irritation in the throat, they no longer vibrate freely, this can really leave us speechless. Fortunately, the reasons are rarely serious and hoarseness usually disappears on its own again after a few days.

Suddenly the voice is gone - the main causes and symptoms of hoarseness

Hoarseness?

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How to recognize the symptoms?

A scratchy throat? You have the urge to clear your throat or difficulty swallowing? In addition to the annoying voice change, these symptoms are typical for hoarseness or. the laryngitis, which is often behind it. Also common are changes that make your voice sound weaker, quieter, or significantly deeper, as well as classic flu signs like a cold, cough, or fever.

If the voice has been gone or severely affected for more than a week? If there is no improvement after about 10 days, it is worth seeing a doctor to discuss treatment options and rule out more serious causes.

What are the causes of hoarseness? The most important spoilers at a glance.

The most common triggers for hoarseness are simple viruses. In most cases, the loss of voice is nothing more than an unpleasant cold and all that goes with it. As soon as the larynx or vocal cords become inflamed, it’s over with the clear voice and every word quickly becomes a torment. In addition to bacterial and viral infections, however, irritation and overexertion are among the usual suspects – plus some less obvious triggers.

The most important reasons at a glance:

Infections and inflammations

  • Cold, flu or flu-like infection
  • Classic sore throat
  • Inflammation of the larynx and vocal cords
  • Chronic sinusitis

Irritation

  • Chronic heartburn or reflux, when stomach acid rises into the esophagus
  • allergic reactions, z. B. on certain foods
  • Smoking, even passively
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Irritation of the respiratory tract, z. B. due to toxins, chemicals or air pollution
  • Cortisone or asthma sprays that dry out the throat

overexertion

  • Heavy strain on the voice (too loud, too much, for too long)
  • Misuse of the voice (see below, especially affected professional groups)
  • Heavy throat clearing or coughing

Chronic or acute? Rarer causes of hoarseness

Most of the causes already mentioned can be treated or prevented on your own. Sometimes, however, hoarseness is a sign of a rarer clinical picture such as:

  • polyps or cysts on the vocal folds, especially in frequent speakers
  • Rheumatism
  • thyroid diseases like a goiter or Hashimoto’s
  • Nervous disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
  • cancer of the throat, esophagus, larynx or lungs

If the symptoms do not subside on their own, a visit to the doctor is therefore advisable after ten days at the latest, in order to rule out these very unlikely, but more serious causes or. diagnose as early as possible.

Singers, actors and more: occupational groups particularly affected

For people who are professionally dependent on a strong, reliable voice, it is particularly dramatic when this suddenly fails. At the same time, they are particularly often affected by voice loss: Professional actors, singers, lecturers, lawyers, politicians and other frequent speakers can quickly talk themselves out of their minds by shouting, non-stop monologues or the wrong voice pitch. For them a so-called "voice hygiene" is particularly important.

Voice therapists recommend that professionals always breathe deeply from the diaphragm when speaking or singing, and – where possible – use amplifying microphones. If you warm up your voice with a few specific exercises before a big performance and adopt the correct, upright "working" posture, you will automatically last longer on stage. And finally, there is a good reason for the ubiquitous glass of water at the lectern: it not only moistens, but also provides strategic pauses for speech. Lozenges are also popular with frequent speakers, as they soothe the vocal cords and naturally stimulate the flow of saliva.

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Tips for avoiding hoarseness

There are also other things that can be done in everyday life to prevent hoarseness from creeping in in the first place. And this is not so complicated, because many classic tips for a healthy life also keep the voice fit.

Who Sufficient sleep, his vocal cords with A lot of fluid keeps supple, Avoid cigarettes, caffeine and alcohol and relaxed in his own, natural voice pitch speaks, has already done much to spare the vocal cords. If you suffer from frequent reflux or heartburn, you should also steer clear of particularly spicy, fatty or acidic foods, as rising stomach acid can irritate the vocal folds when burped. And even though it may seem obvious – please do not whisper or clear your throat! Both are unnatural for the body and additionally strain the voice. Last but not least, it also helps to have your head held high, d. h. please do not put the smartphone between ear and shoulder.

The voice is gone – and now?

We have compiled detailed tips and many practical home remedies for you in separate articles, which promise relief from hoarseness caused by colds. An extra guide for the little ones, who suffer particularly often from flu-like infections with coughs, colds and hoarseness, can be found here.

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