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Loss of Voice
(Aphonia; Partial Loss of Voice; Voice, Loss of; Voice; Partial Loss of)
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Conditions that affect the vocal cords or airway. This may involve injury, swelling, or disease, such as:
- Laryngitis caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection
- Vocal abuse (yelling or talking excessively)
- Exposure to airborne irritants, such as smoke or air pollution
- Acid reflux (such as heartburn)
- Thickening of the vocal chords
- Nodules or polyps on the vocal chords
- Muscle tension dysphonia
- Damage to the nerves that affect how the larynx functions
- Laryngeal or thyroid cancer
- Removal of larynx due to cancer
- Breathing problems that affect the ability to speak
- Neurological disorders (such as myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
- Psychological conditions (such as hysterical aphonia)
- Overusing your voice (such as speaking until you are hoarse)
- Behaviors that abuse your vocal chords, such as smoking, which also puts you at a higher risk for cancer of the larynx
- Having surgery on or around the larynx
- Inability to speak or inability to speak above a whisper
- Spasm of vocal cords
- Throat pain
- Difficulty swallowing (Food or fluids may go into the lungs.)
When Should I Call My Doctor?
- Have hoarseness that is not getting better after two weeks
- Have complete loss of voice that lasts more than a few days
- Have hard, swollen lymph nodes
- Have difficulty swallowing
- Cough up blood
- Feel a lump in your throat
- Have severe throat pain
- Have unexplained weight loss
When Should I Call for Medical Help Right Away?
- Suddenly lose your ability to speak—This may be a sign of a head injury or a stroke.
- Are having trouble breathing
- Resting your voice
- Avoiding smoking
- Staying hydrated
- Using a cool mist humidifier
- Taking nonprescription pain relievers (such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen) as needed
- Participating in voice therapy if your loss of voice is due to voice overuse
- Taking medicine to control acid reflux
- Having surgery to remove growths
- If you smoke, quit.
- If you drink, limit your intake.
- Limit your exposure to fumes and toxins.
- Avoid talking a lot or yelling.
- Avoid whispering
- Learn vocal techniques from a voice therapist if you have to speak a lot for your job.
- Get treatment for conditions that may cause loss of voice.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association http://www.asha.org
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders http://www.nidcd.nih.gov
Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists http://www.caslpa.ca
Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists http://www.osla.on.ca
Acute laryngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 24, 2011. Accessed November 26, 2012.
Conversion disorder. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/perc-about. Updated September 30, 2012. Accessed November 26, 2012.
Casthely PA, Labagnara J. Hoarseness and vocal cord paralysis following coronary artery bypass surgery. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 1992;6:263-264.
Fact sheet: common problems that can affect your voice. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/commonvoiceproblems.cfm. Accessed November 26, 2012.
Hoarseness or loss of voice. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/symptoms/hoarseness/hoarseness1.shtml?Back=Back. Accessed November 26, 2012.
Laryngitis. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary. Updated September 30, 2012. Accessed November 26, 2012.
Maniecka-Aleksandrowicz B, Domeracka-Kolodziej A, et al. Management and therapy in functional aphonia. Otolaryngol Pol. 2006;60:191-197.
Sancho JJ. Pascual-Damieta M, et al. Risk factors for transient vocal cord palsy after thyroidectomy. Br J Surg. 2008;95:961-967.
Vocal nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 20, 2012. Accessed November 26, 2012.
Wolfe H. Hysterical aphonia & electroacupuncture. Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients. 2003;(237):139.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 11/2012
- Update Date: 11/26/2012