Hoarseness (Dysphonia)

Voice disorders are important for two reasons.

Firstly they can have a huge impact on the quality of your life. Communication with your family and friends may be difficult. Your livelihood may be jeopardised if you rely on your voice for your work.

Secondly, voice change may be the first sign of a serious underlying medical condition, such as a cancer of the throat, or even a chest problem.

Any voice change that lasts for more than 3 weeks should be investigated with an examination of your voice box.

Dr David Vokes is subspecialty trained in the diagnosis and treatment of voice disorders using the most up to date technology such as videostroboscopy.

Videostroboscopy (or stroboscopy) is a specialised examination of the vocal folds using an endoscope placed through the nose or mouth to examine the larynx (voice box) with a strobe light. This special light source allows assessment of the vibration of the vocal folds. The video examination is recorded for detailed review and for patient education. The video examinations are stored for future reference to follow a patient's progress.

David uses high definition Olympus videoendoscopes with a stroboscope in his consultation rooms in Remuera to assess the function of the vocal folds in detail, and has extensive experience in the interpretation of this examination.

For further information about common voice disorders, click here.

Here are some tips about looking after your voice:

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

  • Ensure that you get adequate sleep.
  • Check that your diet is healthy.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Ensure that you manage your stress well.

Stay Well Hydrated

  • Drink plenty of fluids [6-8 glasses daily] not including coffee/strong tea/coke/alcohol and caffeinated sports drinks. 
  • Sip water when making presentations.
  • Avoid dairy products if you suspect that they cause an increase in mucus.

Minimise Overuse/Misuse of Your Voice

  • Do not smoke as smoke is a major irritant to the vocal cords. Also avoid fumes, pollutants, dust including chalk.  Where possible wear a mask when using chemicals, sanding surfaces etc.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol.  For every alcoholic drink you have drink a glass of water.
  • Do not clear your throat or cough habitually.  Instead swallow slowly with or without water; or use an air cough (a singer's cough) that is a huff to clear mucus from the vocal cords. Only if absolutely necessary give a single, short, gentle cough. Throat clearing/coughing damages the larynx owing to the hard contact of the vocal cords.
  • Avoid talking over background noise [music, parties, machines, etc] or over a long distance.  Lessen the distance between you and the listener.  Only speak to those within touching distance.  If noise is excessive and you have to talk keep talking to absolute minimum, planning to communicate more fully outside the noisy environment.
  • Avoid shouting, screaming and whispering.
  • Do not speak to a large audience without a microphone.
  • Avoid using your voice too loudly, or for too long.
  • Take a regular break from using your voice. For example, teachers should avoid noisy staff rooms between teaching sessions; and singers should avoid socialising between performances. Try to rest your voice for 15 minutes of every hour.
  • Ensure your voice is not monotone.  Use variety in the tone of your voice.
  • Avoid singing outside of your range (either too low or too high).
  • Avoid speaking beyond your normal breath support.  Speaking more slowly may help this.

When you have a cold / sore throat / laryngitis:

  • Don't use your voice more than absolutely necessary, but do not whisper.  A gentle, quiet voice is better for your larynx.
  • Cancel any non-essential commitments.
  • Inhale steam twice a day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Drink hot beverages to soothe the throat.
  • Chew sugar free gum or sugar free lollies, rather than medicated lozenges.