How is Hoarseness Evaluated?
Our otolaryngologists will obtain a thorough history of a patient’s hoarseness and general health.
They will then evaluate the voice and do a complete ear, nose and throat exam. This includes examination of the vocal folds by laryngoscopy. Laryngoscopy may be suggested by the otolaryngologist at any time during an evaluation for hoarseness, but if it persists beyond three weeks it should be evaluated and that evaluation should occur within a maximum of three months. The evaluation should be immediate if concern about a serious underlying cause is suspected.
Doctors usually look at the vocal folds either with a mirror placed in the back of the throat, or with a very small, lighted flexible tube (fiberoptic scope) that is passed through the nose to view the vocal folds. Videotaping or stroboscopy (slow-motion assessment) may also help with the analysis.
These procedures are well tolerated by most patients. In some cases, special tests designed to evaluate the voice may be recommended. These measure voice irregularities, how the voice sounds, airflow and other characteristics that are helpful in diagnosing and guiding treatment.
When Should I See An Otolaryngologist?
- If hoarseness lasts longer than three weeks, especially if you smoke
- If you do not have a cold or flu
- If you are coughing up blood
- If you have difficulty swallowing
- If you feel a lump in the neck
- If you observe loss or severe changes in voice lasting longer than a few days
- If you experience pain when speaking or swallowing
- If difficulty breathing accompanies your voice change
- If your hoarseness interferes with your livelihood
- If you are a vocal performer and unable to perform
For more information on hoarseness, please contact one of our Ear, Nose & Throat providers.