Hoarseness and Voice Disorders

Voice disorders are any condition that affects your larynx – the organ located in your throat that produces sounds. There are a number of different voice disorders, and just about anyone can get one. Especially vulnerable are people who use their voices a great deal such as performers, singers, speakers, etc. Hoarseness is a descriptor people may use to characterize a raspy, soft, or even deep voice. A persistent hoarse voice may require the expertise of an otolaryngologist or laryngologist to diagnose the problem. Common causes of hoarseness include vocal cord hemorrhages, nodules and polyps. However, less common causes such as benign or malignant tumors must also be ruled out.


A vocal hemorrhage occurs when the tiny blood vessels located in the vocal fold rupture, which can happen after loud or sustained voicing, or even forceful coughing. Hemorrhages are a laryngeal emergency, and are treated with immediate voice rest, lasting as long as two weeks. In certain situations, surgery may be required to treat the underlying cause of a hemorrhage.


Nodules are benign (non-cancerous) lumps located midpoint on both vocal folds. They typically cause hoarseness that gets worse the more you use your voice. Voice rest temporarily improves the condition, but doesn’t usually make the problem go away for good. Steroids are sometimes used to reduce the swelling, but don’t address the root problem. Voice therapy is often used as part of the treatment plan, but phonomicrosurgery may be necessary if the nodules don’t respond to therapy alone.


Vocal cord polyps appear as a swelling, a bump, or a blister-like lesion along a vocal cord, usually around the middle of one or both vocal cords. Polyps generally cause hoarseness, but can also cause intermittent voice breaks, voice changes, and/or a feeling that you need to clear your throat. Voice rest is helpful to relieve acute symptoms, but most polyps require removal by phonomicrosurgery, followed by voice therapy for optimal results.