Summer 2005
Persistent Hoarseness: Speech Therapy May Help

Your voice has sounded hoarse for the past three months, even though you've been using throat lozenges to soothe it. You don’t smoke and you're not a singer, so what can it be? Your neighbor had to have surgery for his hoarseness, so you’re wondering, is that the best way to treat your problem?

"Persistent hoarseness can be caused by a variety of reasons," explains Mark Bianchi, MD, Chief of Otolaryngology (ear, nose, & throat conditions) at Bridgeport Hospital. "Smoking and overuse are two of them. But it can also be caused by nodules, like calluses, on the vocal cords; by straining the vocal cords with abusive behaviors like yelling, screaming, excessive throatclearing and coughing; or even by too much talking. Hoarseness can affect both young children and adults."

And no, surgery is not necessarily the best treatment, according to Bridgeport Hospital–affiliated otolaryngologist Adam Pearl, MD. "In fact," he says, "I usually start my patients with a six- to eight-week course of speech therapy at Ahlbin Rehabilitation Centers."

Renee Dagostine, speech language pathologist at Ahlbin Rehabilitation Centers, agrees. "A speech language pathologist can teach you how to keep your voice healthy, use appropriate breathing techniques, use an appropriate loudness level, retrain the pitch and resonance in your voice, and show you how to keep your throat muscles relaxed while speaking," she explains.

Other non-surgical treatments for hoarseness include mucus thinners, anti-reflux medications, and diet modification, including plenty of water for hydration.

By learning how to use and care for your voice properly, you may be able to get rid of your hoarseness without surgical intervention.

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