Hoarseness is characterized by an abnormal change in the voice. When you are hoarse, your voice may sound deep, raspy, scratchy, breathy, or strained; it might crack or break when you speak. Typically the condition clears up on its own within a matter of days.

Causes of Hoarseness

Hoarseness is caused by disorders of the vocal cords; when they become swollen and infected, the vocal folds responsible for sound are unable to vibrate together as normal, altering the volume, pitch, and quality of the voice.

A variety of conditions can cause hoarseness. These include:

  • Acute Laryngitis. This swelling of the vocal cords is brought on by a viral infection or voice strain. Overuse or Abuse of the Voice. Misusing your voice includes speaking excessively, using inappropriate volume or pitch, and shouting or whispering
  • Vocal Nodules or Lesions. Benign growths on the vocal folds can form when you speak too frequently or loudly
  • Acid Reflux. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD); stomach acids flow into the esophagus and irritate the vocal folds
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Neurological Disorders. Diseases such as Parkinson’s, stroke, or spasmodic dysphonia may cause paralyzed vocal folds

Other causes might include thyroid problems, vocal cord trauma, and cancer. Your doctor can determine what is causing your hoarseness, and figure out a treatment plan based on those findings.


In many cases, the best treatment for hoarseness is simple and straightforward: rest your voice. Avoid speaking as much as possible and, in particular, do not put any undue strain on your vocal cords – refrain from yelling, whispering, and crying. Keep your vocal cords moist by drinking lots of fluids, and use a humidifier or vaporizer if possible.

More serious conditions might require surgery or voice therapy.