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While not a diagnosis itself, hoarseness is often the first symptom of a voice disorder. Hoarseness is the product of abnormal vibration of or unwanted air leaks through the vocal folds. This usually occurs when the vocal folds do not close completely, or when an abnormality changes the weight or tension of one of the folds. Hoarseness has a wide range of potential causes, from benign growths to acid reflux to inflammation from smoking and cancers.

Some common causes of hoarseness include:
  • Vocal cysts - a mass of tissue that lies underneath the superficial lining of the vocal fold.
  • Vocal Nodules - noncancerous growths that form on the layer of cells that cover the vocal folds. These often occur in people who are very talkative, or use their voice heavily for their work (e.g. a teacher).
  • Vocal Granuloma - a noncancerous growth that forms on the larynx due to trauma or irritation.
  • Vocal Papillomas - wart-like growths that develop due to the papilloma virus.
  • Vocal Polyps - growths that develop on the vocal folds, typically appearing after abuse of the voice. They frequently occur in professional singers, public speakers, and chronic smokers.
  • Aging Voice - unwanted changes in their voice as individuals grow older, usually due to a loss of muscle mass and elasticity in the larynx and vocal folds.

Temple's Otolaryngologists can pinpoint the underlying cause of vocal hoarseness and are highly experienced in effectively treating it.

Hoarseness Treatment at Temple

Our multidisciplinary team of academic clinicians aims to provide effective hoarseness treatment   with the least invasive approach possible.  Many voice problems can be treated with medicine, voice therapy or a combination of the two.  Some conditions, however, require surgical treatment. 

Voice Therapy: Voice therapy is conducted by a licensed, certified Speech Pathologist with specialized knowledge and training in voice disorders.  The goal of voice therapy is to eliminate harmful vocal behaviors, and promote healthy vocal behaviors.  Voice therapy also assists in wound healing after surgery or injury to the vocal folds. Specific therapy targets are created by the clinician based on input from the patient.

Voice Therapy for Professional Voice Users:  Actors, singers, performers, politicians and public speakers are vocal athletes and are prone to injury of their voice box.  Vocal athletes have very specific needs and require comprehensive care to address injuries and to reduce the risk of repeated injury.   

Laser Surgery
Laser surgery can remove growths from the larynx, subglottis, or trachea. For laryngeal growths such as papillomas, the goal of surgery is to remove as much of the growth as possible without damaging the larynx.

Laser surgery is a procedure usually performed under general anesthesia but in some cases may be performed in the office setting under local anesthesia. Several types of lasers are available and are used for different tasks.

Temple's otolaryngologists use the KTP Laser, which works by targeting the growths' blood supply. Without blood, laryngeal growths will wither away and eventually disappear. This type of treatment is both highly effective and very sensitive to the surrounding laryngeal tissue. The CO2 laser is excellent at cutting scar and is used to treat stenosis of the larynx or trachea; it also works well for papilloma

Temple's surgeons are highly experienced with laser surgery of the larynx and trachea.