Why Do You Lose Your Voice? - Laryngitis Explained

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At it’s simplest, your voice is the result of air causing vibration of the vocal cords, resulting in sound. Here’s how it works.

The lungs pump air through your windpipe, towards your voice box (also called the larynx) and then out of your mouth. In the larynx, there are these two folds of tissue called the vocal cords. When you speak, the vocal cords come together and vibrate as wind passes through them. This vibration makes sound which passes through your throat and out of your mouth.

So what happens when you lose your voice?

The most common cause is a viral infection of the larynx, also called laryngitis. This infection causes your vocal cords to swell up and become stiff so that they can’t vibrate freely.

Your lungs push air through the vocal cords, but they don’t virbrate. So you puff out air but no voice comes out.

What can you do to get your voice back?

If you’ve got laryngitis, your voice will come back in about 10 to 14 days once your body has cleared off the infection and the swelling has settled down.

To help the swelling resolve, the best treatment is to rest your voice as much as possible. Trying to force air through your vocal cords will just make them more inflamed and take longer to get better.

To help soothe the irritation in your throat, you can try drinking warm fluids like a hot lemon drinks. Humidity seems to help so you can try using a steam inhaler or taking a hot shower. If you have a sore throat, then simple pain killers like paracetamol can help you feel a bit better.

Since laryngitis is most commonly a viral infection, taking antibiotics won’t help speed up your recovery but you can get unnecessary side effects like diarrhea.

You should see your family doctor if you get high fevers and chills, if you have a lot of pain or if your voice isn’t getting better even after 3 or 4 weeks.

Some causes of persisting hoarseness are things like acid reflux, vocal cord nodules and even hypothyroidism.

As always if you have any questions, pop them down below and I’ll see you in the next one.

Further Reading:

Murtagh's General Practice 5th Edition, pages 601-603

Mayo Clinic on Laryngitis: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/laryngitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20374262

Video credits:

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