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September 2011 Otologic, Head & Neck Newsletter >>
Hoarseness and Voice Evaluation
Hoarseness is a common symptom that may present to a variety of different specialists including primary care physicians. A clear understanding of the causes of hoarseness and an appreciation that it may represent a serious underlying condition are important. 1
A wide variety of laryngeal and extralaryngeal conditions can cause hoarseness, and there can be many challenges associated with its evaluation. Early identification of symptoms, by both the patient and physician, and visualization of the larynx are needed for diagnosis.
What are the most common causes of hoarseness?
How do we evaluate hoarseness?
The typical work-up will include a thorough history of a patient’s hoarseness and his or her overall health followed by a voice evaluation and thorough ear, nose and throat exam. Laryngoscopy is used to evaluate the vocal folds. Additionally, specialized tests carried out by the otolaryngologist or speech language pathologist can be helpful in determining the appropriate treatment plan and diagnosis. However, immediate evaluation to rule out a laryngeal malignancy, airway obstruction, recurrent respiratory papilloma, or vocal fold paralysis is critical if there is concern about a serious underlying cause.
The diagnosis and management of hoarseness involves a multidisciplinary team which can include otolaryngologists, speech language pathologists (many of whom specialize in voice), neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists.
To learn more about the medical and surgical treatment of patients with voice disorders, please click here.
1. Colton RH, Casper JK, Leonard R. Understanding voice problems: a physiological perspective for diagnosis and treatment. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2006.