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YouTube Video Link: (Video has been reviewed by NEHH and is provided for the sole purpose of education. It is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.)

Hoarseness refers to any abnormal change in your voice that makes it difficult to speak. You may sound raspy, breathy, or strained. Hoarseness, also called dysphonia, may be caused by swelling or lumps in your vocal cords.

Your vocal cords are two bands of tissue inside your voice box(larynx). Sound is created as these two bands of tissue move back and forward as you speak. The surface of your vocal cords should be smooth for your voice to sound clear. Some common causes for hoarseness are:

  • Upper respiratory infections. (Infection in the nose, throat, and upper air passages.)
  • A long-term cough
  • Straining your voice.
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Medication side effects
  • Vocal cord growth
  • Vocal cord injuries
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (Acid reflux) is stomach acid that moves up your throat irritating your vocal cords.
  • Diseases that affect the nervous system.

Tips to Alleviate hoarseness

Here are some tips that can help minimize hoarseness.

  • Rest your voice.
  • Speaking in a normal tone, whispering or loud speaking can cause muscle strain to your vocal cords.
  • Avoid coughing or clearing your throat. You can try cough drops or other soothing over-the-counter supplements to soothe your cough and throat. *
  • DO NOT smoke. Avoid using products with nicotine or tobacco. **
  • Avoid eating too late in the evening. Avoid foods that can cause acid reflux, spicy, and high acidic foods.
  • DO NOT drink alcoholic beverages. **
  • Using a humidifier at home will increase the moisture of the air in your home.
  • Stay hydrated, and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

See your primary care provider if:

  • Your hoarseness lasts longer than 3 weeks.
  • You lose your voice for longer than 3 days.
  • You have pain or discomfort when swallowing or talking.
  • You feel a lump in your neck.

You should get help right away if:

  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • It feels like you’re choking when you swallow.
  • You have difficulty breathing.
  • You notice blood when coughing or vomiting.
  • You are experiencing signs and symptoms such as swelling or a rash on your face, tongue, throat, or body.

As always! We are here to help. At NEHH we strive to provide education and make information readily available. This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.

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Doucet, M. (2021, March 30). Hoarseness. YouTube. Retrieved December 19, 2021, from 

Copyright © 2021 The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System. All rights reserved. (n.d.). Hoarseness. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved December 19, 2021, from

*NEHH does not make a recommendation on over-the-counter treatments or medical treatment, and you should ask your primary care provider before starting any treatment.

**If you feel you need help quitting smoking or alcohol use. Ask your primary care provider for assistance or you can reach us at for more resources.

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