While losing your voice or hoarseness is something that we commonly associate with illness like throat infection, in reality the loss of voice could be due to many other common reasons, as well as not-so-common but serious reasons. The actual science behind losing voice is an inflamed, swollen and an irritated larynx and the area around the voice box. However, frequent episodes of hoarseness without any reason warrant medical attention.
Why Do You Lose Your Voice?
Well, much to your surprise, loss of voice may be evident in a variety of medical conditions. Be it simply a result of excessive hooting or a throat infection; let's list all the possible causes for losing voice one by one:
Strain like shouting at the top of your voice at an event or during a concert is a very common cause for loss of voice. However, this is temporary and giving your voice some rest is the magic bullet here.
2. Voice Misuse
Prolonged, excessively loud or inefficient use of voice with poor breathing technique like speaking in a noisy crowd or using inappropriate pitch may be important causes of losing voice. This is because excessive laryngeal muscle tension, vocal fatigue, increased vocal effort and hoarseness.
3. Acid Reflux
Stomach acid coming back up the esophagus or food pipe may irritate vocal cords. This type of reflux is known as laryngeopharyngeal reflux disease and may cause persistent hoarseness and loss of voice. Other symptoms of the condition are swallowing difficulty, lump in throat sensation, throat pain, etc.
Why do you lose your voice? Laryngitis is to blame. The most common cause of loss of voice is acute laryngitis, which is marked by an inflamed and swollen larynx hindering the smooth functioning of vocal cords. The opening and closing of these cords is what creates sound and any hindrance here will create voice issues. Acute laryngitis may be due to viral infection and rarely bacterial infections.
Chronic laryngitis is a non-specific term used when laryngitis that has been there for a long time and is probably due to acid reflux or exposure to irritants like smoke or recurrent low-grade infections discussed later in the article.
5. Vocal Cord Lesions
Overuse and misuse of voice may also lead to non-cancerous and cancerous growths or lesions on vocal cords which then alter the vibration of cords, leading to voice change or loss. Such lesions include polyps, nodules (singers nodes), cysts, etc.
6. Vocal Cord Paralysis
It is the most common neurological condition affecting larynx leading to weakness of one or both the cords. The voice becomes soft and breathy and there is difficulty breathing while talking. It can be caused by viral throat infection, neck or chest surgery, tumor or a growth along laryngeal nerves, etc.
7. Other Causes
Still want more answers to "Why do you lose your voice?" Here are 3 more answers to help explain this issue better:
- Yeast infection: A yeast infection or an oral thrush may be an important cause in people with a weak immune system like HIV/AIDS patients and cancer patients, and asthmatics using corticosteroid inhaler.
- Vocal cord hemorrhage: This is the culprit if there is sudden loss of voice following excessive shouting or yelling. It results from the rupture of a blood vessel which fills soft tissues with blood.
- Laryngeal cancer: Chronic hoarseness or frequent episodes of loss of voice warrants medical attention to rule out a cause as serious as laryngeal or throat cancer.
How to Restore Your Voice
Now that you have the answer to the question "Why do you lose your voice?" Let's zero in on how to tackle such situations. Here we’ll discuss a few useful remedies and medical intervention.
1. Soothe Your Throat
Simple home remedies make your throat feel a lot better and speed up the recovery. Some remedies for comforting your throat are:
- Drink plenty of fluids (at room temperature);
- Gargle salt water to help in clearing the mucus;
- Tea with lemon and honey is a great vocal soother;
- Take steam for 5 minutes twice a day because steam increases moisture in throat and heat is good for it too;
- Lozenges offer temporary relief.
2. Rest Your Throat
Pretty much like rest of your body, make sure your throat gets its due rest before you start using it again. You should:
- Give your voice a break like passing notes instead of saying;
- Breathe through nose to avoid drying of throat;
- Avoid aspirin because loss of voice could be due to a ruptured vessel and aspirin may aggravate bleeding;
- Quit tobacco because smoking is one of the top most causes of throat dryness;
- Avoid acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes as they may cause tissue tearing.
3. See a Doctor
If you still have questions about "why do you lose your voice or how to heal your lost voice?" just turn to your doctor for help. Persistent symptoms that don’t get better with home remedies or time need immediate medical attention. A doctor may advise:
- Antibiotics if there is a severe bacterial infection;
- Steroids at times may prove to be helpful in reducing inflammation, but this is for emergencies only;
- Proton pump inhibitors in case of acid reflux;
- Inhaling humidified air to encourage moisture;
- Complete voice rest;
- Vocal nodules are treatable and microsurgical cure is often required;
- Surgery may be indicated for unilateral vocal cord paralysis which involves repositioning of vocal cord;
- Use voice therapy which composes of lots of tasks designed to rid harmful vocal behavior, foster healthy vocal behavior, and help heal wounded vocal fold after injury or surgery.