Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Oral Care

Font Size

Voice Problems - Overview

What are voice problems?

Voice problems usually include pain or discomfort when you speak or difficulty controlling the pitch, loudness, or quality of your voice.

As you exhale, air gently passes through your throat, across your open vocal cords, and out your mouth and nose. When you speak, your vocal cords close partially as air travels through them, causing vibrations and the unique sound of your voice. Your voice is the result of remarkable and complex interactions involving several body parts—especially the lungs, voice box (larynx camera.gif), and mouth. Damage to any of these body parts can lead to a voice problem.

What causes voice problems?

Anyone can develop a voice problem, but your risk is greatest if your job puts a high demand on your vocal cords. For example, singers, preachers, and teachers have high-risk jobs. Aging also strains the vocal cords. If you scream or talk loudly, you increase your risk for voice problems. If you have ever had surgery on or near your vocal cords, are a smoker, or have had throat cancer, your risk for developing scar tissue and future voice problems increases as well.

What are the symptoms?

Typically, symptoms that mean you may have a voice problem include:

  • A low, raspy, or rough voice.
  • Hoarseness that continues for more than 2 or 3 weeks.
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing, especially if you also have ear pain.
  • Coughing or choking when you swallow.
  • Frequent throat clearing or the sensation that you have a lump in your throat.

How are voice problems diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually diagnose a voice problem using information from a medical history and by doing a physical exam. Other tests may be done to evaluate vocal cord vibration or to detect suspicious areas in your throat. Additional testing doesn't necessarily mean you have a serious voice problem—it just helps your doctor pinpoint the cause of your voice problem.

How are they treated?

For many voice problems, resting your vocal cords is all that is needed, although this can be difficult for some people. If you have a more serious or chronic voice problem, you may need medicines, surgery, voice therapy, or a combination of these. Treatment frequently succeeds in restoring the voice to normal. But it may take some time for your voice to return to normal, depending on the severity and cause of your voice problem.

Is your voice change serious?

You might be one of those people who gets laryngitis every time you get the common cold. This is temporary and usually not serious. If your voice problem is accompanied by a cold and goes away within 2 to 3 weeks after your cold or flu is gone, it's probably nothing serious. If you feel concerned, you may want to see your doctor just to make sure.

But when unexplained changes in your voice continue for more than 2 or 3 weeks or interfere with your ability to communicate, you may have a more serious problem. For some people, the changes might get better but then reappear.

If you notice a change in your voice or if your voice problems get better but then come back, it's worth making an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 03, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

close up of woman sticking out tongue
Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
toothbrushes
10 secrets to a brighter smile.
 
Veneer smile
Before and after.
Woman checking her bite in mirror
Why dental care is important.
 

Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
Slideshow
woman with jaw pain
Quiz
 
eroded front teeth
Slideshow
brushing teeth
Video
 

Variety shades of tea
Slideshow
mouth and dental instruments
Article
 
Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
Tool
womans smile
Video