Hoarseness: definition, causes and disease course
The causes of hoarseness are usually harmless, but the problem can become chronic: about 4 million people in Germany are constantly suffering from hoarseness. When you speak, the sounds are created in the larynx. There stretch two 1-centimeter-long muscle bands (medical: vocal folds). Breathing air is forced out of the lungs through the larynx, passing between the vocal cords and causing them to vibrate. The tighter they are, the higher the tone. However, the thin vocal folds are sensitive. Hoarseness is usually caused by inflammation in or on the larynx.
Hoarseness is usually triggered by infections (viruses, bacteria) of the mucous membrane. Most common cause of hoarseness: A cold. But even irritation of the mucous membranes (for example, smoking, frequent loud talking, screaming) can cause inflammation. Then tough mucus lays on the vocal folds. They can also dry out, for example, when you breathe through your mouth when your nose is weak. In these cases, they can no longer swing freely. Episode: Rough sounds that are difficult to bring out. The danger: talking is exhausting. The vocal cords are permanently overloaded. As a result, small nodules may form. And this can cause benign tumors (polyps) or water retention (edema) - at the latest then the hoarseness is chronic. In very rare cases of hoarseness, a tumor can be the cause.
If you do not know the cause of the hoarseness, you should go immediately to the ear, nose and throat doctor. If the cause of hoarseness is known (for example, a cold), the following applies: If the hoarseness is not over after two to three weeks, you should definitely go to the ENT specialist! He can examine the larynx and vocal cords with an endoscope (locally anesthetized, takes only a few minutes) and then, for example, prescribe remedies for inflammation, nodules or polyps. If this does not help, the nodules can be removed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia, for example by laser.
Hoarseness: prevention and self-help
To avoid nodules, the hoarseness must be treated. Important: You have to spare your voice and talk as little as possible. Attention: Since whispering tightens the vocal folds too much, one should also avoid this. In addition, you should drink a lot of warm because that relaxes the muscles and vocal cords, for example, two glasses of milk with honey daily or three to four cups of tea daily from this mixture (pharmacy):
- 40 g thyme leaves,
- 20 g of ribwort,
- 20 g licorice root,
- 10 g crushed fennel fruits,
- 5 g, mallow leaves,
- 5 g of cowslip flowers.
Brew 1 tbsp with 1 cup of water, cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
It also helps to gargle two to three times a day with salt water (1 teaspoon salt on a large glass of water) or with lukewarm sage tea and suck pastilles with primrose root or Icelandic moss (sugar-free, pharmacy). Important: Do not smoke, avoid smoky and stuffy rooms and humidify the room air, for example, by hanging wet towels over the heater.