University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Ingo Titze, MSEE, PhD
Professor of Speech Pathology & Audiology/Music/Biomedical Engineering
First Published: 2004
Last Revised: September 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
If you have temporary hoarseness or voice loss and also have a runny nose, sore throat or fever, your laryngitis is likely due to a viral or bacterial infection. Your physician may prescribe medication or suggest treatment for this type of laryngitis.
But if you're not ill and symptoms last more than three weeks, you simply may be over-working your vocal system, says Ingo Titze, Distinguished Professor of Voice in the Ul Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. Vocal fatigue occurs when the structures that create the voice tire, work inefficiently or become damaged from overuse.
People who use their voices frequently in their work are particularly at risk for vocal fatigue. Teachers, who spend much of their day speaking in noisy environinents, top the list of professionals with voice problems, but other professionals such as singers, lawyers, and sales people are vulnerable to vocal fatigue, says Julie Ostrem, a health education project director, also of Ul's Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.
It is not unusual for the average person to occasionally have symptoms of vocal fatigue: soreness or scratchiness in the throat, hoarseness, or weak or breathy speech. However, chronic vocal fatigue is usually due to speaking frequently or loudly in noisy environments, inadequate vocal recovery time, or habits counter-productive to healthy vocalization.
Vocal fatigue often can be prevented. Taking in adequate air, maintaining good posture and allowing words to "float" on the outgoing breath can prevent over-burdening vocal muscles.
For vocal over-doers, it's important to build into their schedules non-speaking recovery time, especially after a day of rigorous voice use, according to Titze and Ostrem.
Instead of trying to compete with a noisy background, simply move to quieter surroundings or move closer to your conversation partner. For individuals whose jobs require them to speak in loud environinents, Ostrem suggests using amplification systems. Newer models may be worn on the body, fanny-pack style, and cost as little as $300.
Other culprits that can make vocal tissues vulnerable to damage include smoking and untreated acid reflux from the stomach. Finally, tension in the shoulders, neck and upper back often make people over-work their vocal muscles.
Additional recommendations are available at the Voice Academy, a Website published by Ostrem and her colleagues.