Hoarseness is a general term for abnormal changes in voice quality. A hoarse voice may sound breathy, raspy, strained, or there may changes in volume and pitch to include a total loss of voice.
When you have an upper respiratory tract infection (like the common cold) swelling in the larynx leads to a condition called acute laryngitis.
Hoarseness is a symptom of acute laryngitis.
The swelling associated with acute laryngitis does not allow the vocal folds to function normally and results in changes in voice quality. Typically, allowing the infection to run its course leads to a return to normal voice quality.
Laryngitis can also be caused by excessive use or misuse of the voice, vocal nodules or lesions, gastroesophageal reflux disease and smoking.
You should see an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) when hoarseness lasts longer than two weeks or is associated with :
- Pain not associated with a cold or flu
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty swallowing
- A lump in the neck
- You are or have been a smoker
- You are or have been a heavy consumer of alcohol.