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If using your voice is difficult, then you know what dysphonia is. The more common name for this disorder is hoarseness.Experts say about one in three people will become hoarse at some point in their lives. Infections, smoking and using your voice too much, too loudly or just incorrectly can all cause hoarseness. It happens more commonly in women, children, the elderly and those who use their voice a lot in their jobs.

Now, doctors have the first treatment guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. The new guidelines recognize that most cases are not serious and go away within a few days. But hoarseness can also be a sign of something worse. Doctor Richard Rosenfeld helped develop the guidelines. Doctor Rosenfeld said: “We want to really call attention to the fact that hoarseness is not just a symptom. It occurs as a result of something underlying which can be potentially serious. ”

He says there are some situations where people should get examined sooner rather than later. He said: “So if you have hoarseness with tobacco or alcohol use, that would be a significant risk factor for cancer or other problems of the throat that could be serious. If you have any sort of a mass or growth in your neck at the same time, that would be very suspicious. ” The same is true if hoarseness begins after an accident or injury. Or if you are also losing weight for no reason. Or if you are trying to rest your voice but it keeps getting worse. If hoarseness continues or the cause is unknown, doctors should perform an examination called a laryngoscopy. This is done in the doctor’s office to look down the throat at the voice box and vocal chords.

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The guidelines urge doctors not to use other imaging methods like CT or MRI scans until they have done this. They are also advised not to give anti-reflux medicines for hoarseness unless they are sure patients need them. And doctors are told that steroids or antibiotics given by mouth are not recommended for hoarseness. The guidelines say voice therapy is a well-recognized intervention.

And they suggest ways to avoid getting hoarse. Drink lots of water. Avoid tobacco smoke and other irritants. And for people who use their voices a lot, like singers or professional speakers, get voice training and use an amplifier. And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report.

Words in This Story

spasmodic dysphonia – n. a condition in which someone has difficulty speaking because of spasms (= muscles suddenly becoming tighter in an uncontrolled way)

disorder – n. a state of untidiness or lack of organization

hoarseness – n. the quality of a person’s voice when it sounds rough, often because of a sore throat or a cold

academy – n. an organization intended to protect and develop an art, science, language, etc., or a school that teaches a particular subject or trains people for a particular job

foundation – n. an occasion when an organization, state, etc. is established

underlying – adj. real but not immediately obvious

tobacco – n. a substance smoked in cigarettes, pipes, etc. that is prepared from the dried leaves of a particular plant

significant – adj. important or noticeable

factor – n. a fact or situation that influences the result of something

suspicious – adj. making you feel that something illegal is happening or that something is wrong


laryngoscopy – n. an examination of the throat, including the parts that create the voice, using a long thin tube

reflux – n. a condition in which liquid from the stomach moves upwards into the oesophagus (= the tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach)

irritant – n. something that causes trouble or makes you annoyed

amplifier – n. an electrical device that makes sounds louder

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Medical English DR.DUY


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