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Hoarseness diagnosis and treatment

Hoarseness can happen for all kinds of reasons. Talking or singing for a long time can turn your voice into a raspy whisper. You can also temporarily lose your voice with colds and upper respiratory tract infections like acute laryngitis, which inflames the vocal cords.

A hoarse voice will often improve on its own. But if your hoarseness has gone on for six weeks or more, it's important to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon (otolaryngologist) to rule out any serious underlying cause such as larynx (voice box) cancer.

No, a hoarse voice is a symptom of something else. That’s why it’s so important to see an ENT surgeon if resting your voice hasn’t worked and it is still hoarse after six weeks.

We provide a one-stop service where we see you promptly, investigate the problem and plan a medical or surgical treatment at the hospital that depends on the diagnosis.

If yours is a common problem, such as acute laryngitis or gastroesophageal reflux, we can often tell you during your appointment and put your mind at rest.

The most common causes are infections such as acute laryngitis, and overuse of your voice for work. Others include:

  • Singer’s nodules (growth on the vocal cords);
  • Polyps;
  • Smoking;
  • Gastroesophageal reflux;
  • Coughing and throat clearing;
  • Postnasal drips;
  • Chest problems;
  • Muscle tension dysphonia;
  • Allergies and
  • Thyroid problems.

You’ll meet your experienced ENT surgeon in their well-equipped consultation room. After discussing your history, your surgeon will examine your head and neck.

They may also insert a long, flexible fibre-optic scope (laryngoscope or pharyngoscope) into your throat or nose, so they can see your vocal cords and any nodules. There’s no pain thanks to the use of a local anaesthetic, and it’ll help your surgeon check for inflammation or blockages.

Your surgeon can sometimes tell you what’s causing your hoarse voice within your 30-minute consultation. But laboratory tests may be needed, such as a biopsy, which will be taken from you as a day case under general anaesthetic.

We offer a range of medical and surgical treatments from being referred to a speech therapist to treat voice disorders or change habits to surgery to remove singers’ nodules. The treatment will depend on the findings from your consultation.

You may feel some discomfort from the use of a scope, but the risks are minimal.

Removing a nodule or polyps can be done under general anaesthetic, and anaesthesia has a small risk of reaction. Our anaesthetists have performed hundreds of operations and you’ll get the chance to answer any questions before surgery begins.

As with other ENT procedures, there are risks from bleeding and infection, which can be treated with antibiotics. Surgery may also result in a sore tongue or a chipped tooth, although guards can reduce the risk.

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