Have you noticed that you or a loved one has a raspy or weak voice? One of the most common causes of a raspy voice is laryngitis, or an inflammation in your larynx. Most cases of laryngitis will get better with some rest, but some cases will need some extra help. Here’s everything you need to know about laryngitis and what you can do to get your voice back.
What is Laryngitis?
If you have a raspy or weak voice you may have laryngitis. This is an inflammation of your larynx or your voice box. Laryngitis affects your vocal cords which are in the voice box. The vocal cords are two folds of membrane that cover a structure of cartilage and muscle. When you speak, sing, or make other sounds, the vocal cords will open and close. Air passes over the vocal cords, and the movement of the muscles creates sound.
When you have laryngitis, the vocal cords become irritated. Inflammation of the vocal cords will make it harder to open and close the vocal cords. The inflammation also changes the sound of your voice since the swelling affects the shape and size of the vocal cords. This is what creates a hoarse, raspy, or weak voice.
Most cases of laryngitis will last just a few days short of a week. This is called acute laryngitis, and your vocal cords will recover quickly. Other people may experience chronic laryngitis, which can last a long time.
The Symptoms of Laryngitis
The most common symptoms of laryngitis are changes in the sound of your voice. You may have a raspy or weak voice for several days or weeks. You may also experience pain when talking, or discomfort in the throat and neck. Other symptoms of laryngitis include:
- A hoarse voice
- Losing your voice
- A sore or dry throat
- A tickling feeling in the throat
- A dry cough
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s time to rest your vocal cords. Take a break from talking for a few days and let your voice rest. If the symptoms persist for more than a few days, you should visit your doctor or ENT to find out if you have laryngitis.
What Causes Laryngitis?
There are two main types of laryngitis: acute and chronic. Acute laryngitis is temporary, and you’ll often recover your voice in a few days. The causes of acute laryngitis include:
- Overuse of the vocal cords, such as yelling. This overuse can lead to swelling
- An irritation of the voice box that leads to inflammation
- A viral or bacterial infection that causes an inflammation in the larynx
Chronic laryngitis will last a lot longer than acute laryngitis. Most cases of chronic laryngitis will last longer than three weeks. Chronic laryngitis is usually caused by irritants or allergens in your environment. The causes of chronic laryngitis include:
- Irritants like chemical fumes
- Allergens such as pollen or dust mites
- Acid reflux, or stomach acid that travels back up to your esophagus
- Chronic sinus infections
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Habitual strain on the vocal cords, such as performing as a singer or working as a waiter in a loud bar.
Caring for Raspy or Weak Voice
If you have a raspy or weak voice caused by overuse, then the best thing you can do is rest your vocal cords. Avoid talking or any strenuous use of your vocal cords. Spend a few days speaking only when necessary so that the swelling in your larynx can go down. Look after your raspy voice by:
- Rest your voice and avoid talking while you recover from laryngitis.
- Drink lots of fluids including water and tea. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. You can also use a steam bowl or take a hot bath. This moisture will soothe your vocal cords and reduce swelling.
- Speak in your normal voice. You may think that speaking softly will help your vocal cords, but whispering will actually put even more strain on your swollen vocal cords.
If your laryngitis persists for more than a few days, visit an ENT to find out your next steps. If you have a bacterial infection you may need to take antibiotics for a few days to clear up the infection.