EAR, NOSE & THROAT
What does a music concert, laryngitis, and smoking all have in common? They can cause hoarseness. I’m sure you have found yourself at one point not being able to speak. Your voice gets raspy and deep, and no one can understand you. Hoarseness is not an uncommon phenomenon. Hoarseness is a result of injury to or irritation of the vocal cords. Hoarseness is not a disease in itself but a result of a disease or a symptom of a disease. It is the vocal cords that create the tone of voice. Instead of blaming your lack of singing ability on your parents, blame it on your vocal cords. They play a huge factor in the way our voice sounds. The vocal cords are like guitar strings but function more like a harmonica. They are thick bands that rest on either side of the larynx. You may be familiar with the term voice box. The voice box is not a box that sits in the throat that needs tuning, in fact, it is the larynx. In a way, it is a house for the voice. You do not have to be hoarse forever; there are treatments and things you can do to prevent losing your voice.
Your Vocal Cords
You may think you have several vocal cords, but you only have two. I stated earlier that the vocal cords are like guitar strings but function more like a harmonica. I say this because the vocal cords are thick, folded membranes that vibrate like plucked guitar strings. A harmonica creates a sound based on the strength and vibration of the air that hits the inside. This too is how vocal cords operate. No one plucks the cords to make them vibrate. They vibrate as a result of airflow. They are stretched on each side of the pharynx allowing for vibration from the air. The pressure of the air that flows changes the pitch of your voice. Nerves also control vocal cords. These nerves are called laryngeal nerves.
The vocal cords operate based on pitch (rate of vibration). The pitch is not only a result of vibration but also the length and width of the vocal cords. Surprisingly, your pitch can be related to emotions. When singing, higher tones are associated with a stretching of the vocal cords whereas lower tones result from a constricting of vocal cords. Women tend to have higher voices from the result of shorter vocal cords, so vibrations move along them faster, but men have longer vocal cords causing a slower rate of vibration. Hoarseness is related to vocal cord problems but can be caused by several different things.
Causes of Hoarseness
Hoarseness can be a cause of many different things. It is also considered a symptom. Laryngitis is one apparent cause of hoarseness. The larynx houses the vocal cords. Therefore, inflammation of the larynx may hinder air vibrations on the vocal cords. You may find yourself becoming hoarse after yelling or even singing a lot. This hoarseness is a result of trauma to the vocal cords. The constant stretch on the vocal cords from shouting or singing can cause both temporary and permanent damage. The vocal cords can become strained and require rest to heal. Smoking may not cause you to lose your voice, but it can damage the voice box. This damage tends to lead to the voice becoming deep and raspy. Any infection in the respiratory system can cause hoarseness. Other problems include cancer, benign tumors, thyroid issues and allergies. Vocal cord nodules are noncancerous growths that settle on the vocal cords. Vocal cord nodules occur as a result of persistent strain on the vocal cords. Vocal cord nodules is a problem you may notice more in singers.
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