CEENTA otolaryngologist Brett Heavner, MD appeared on WCNC's Charlotte Today on November 8, 2021 to discuss causes for voice hoarseness.
Learn more about our ENT and voice treatment options and schedule your next appointment with Dr. Heavner at our Huntersville and Steele Creek offices today!
Eugene Robinson: If your voice is feeling hoarse or weak or just doesn't sound like you, you could be suffering from a voice disservice called dysphonia. Here to tell us more is Dr. Brett Heavner from Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates. Hello doctor, how are you doing today, sir?
Dr. Brett Heavner: Good, sir. How are you?
Eugene: I'm doing wonderful. Let's start off by learning how our vocal cords work.
Dr. Heavner: Yes, so our vocal cords. Well, we'll start out talking about the larynx. So, the larynx is really the organ that separates the way we swallow our mouth from our lungs and our feeding tube. So, the top of our lungs, the trachea, which is a little like a little pipe are two vocal cords, or technically not true cords or vocal folds. They're folds of tissue, but normally when we breathe, they open to allow air to go down into the trachea like a tube and when they close - I'll close my fingers like this - they vibrate and that vibration produces a sound, and that sound is what we turn into speech or language as it goes through our nose and throat.
Eugene: So, what happens to your throat when your voice becomes hoarse?
Dr. Heavner: Really, when you become hoarse, it's a matter of the vocal - something disrupts that normal vibration pattern. That can be simply swelling of the vocal cords where when they vibrate, they don't vibrate quite as efficiently. That can be a little nodule or a bump that will cause, when they close not to close quite as well. That can be just age-related voice changes where the vocal folds become somewhat weaker, and they don't close quite as efficiently. I just use my fingers to describe it, almost like a gapping. Tt could be any number of those things. It can be a combination of those things as well.
Eugene: So, what are some common conditions that cause voice hoarseness?
Dr. Heavner: Probably the most common thing everyone knows of is laryngitis, and laryngitis simply means an inflammation of the vocal cords or vocal folds. Most laryngitis is related to like a viral respiratory infection. Certainly, it can be related to things like allergies, reflux, sometimes just an overuse laryngitis, where you go through a period of time where you're using the voice a bit more heavy and that puts some strain on the vocal cords. Everyone's concerned, and obviously we really consider things like tumors and cancer and stuff like that. Those are actually quite uncommon compared to most hoarseness, but they're the most concerning things.
Eugene: So how can voice hoarseness be treated at home?
Dr. Heavner: Probably the best thing you can do if you go through a period of laryngitis would be a period of vocal rest where you don't overuse the voice. Sometimes being quiet for a few days. Something that's I think very important and maybe not as acknowledged as it should be is just good hydration. The vocal cords are, they're folds of tissue, and they need good lubrication to vibrate. Probably the simplest thing you can do with voice rest is just drink lots of water and limit your caffeine intake.
Eugene: So, when should you schedule an appointment for voice hoarseness then?
Dr. Heavner: Generally, we say if you have hoarseness that lasts for more than about three weeks it's probably a good thing to get evaluated. I say that because most laryngitis, be it allergic or viral, will typically settle down after about two weeks and anything that's beyond that becomes a bit more concerning. Obviously, if you develop other symptoms, especially difficulty breathing or significant throat pain, that should be something that prompts you to get evaluated a bit earlier.
Eugene: Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates has locations all around Charlotte, including their Huntersville and Steele Creek offices where you can find Dr. Heavner. To learn more, visit WeJustMakeSense.com. Dr. Heavner thank you very very much, sir.
Dr. Heavner: Thank you.
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