Loss of Voice



Loss of voice is often due to problems with the voice box (larynx). However, there are many causes, including:

  • Conditions that affect the vocal cords or airway, such as:
    • Laryngitis—caused by infections
    • Irritants, such as smoke or air pollution
    • Acid reflux from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • Thickening, nodules, or polyps of the vocal chords
    • Muscle tension dysphonia
    • Laryngeal or thyroid cancer, or removal of the larynx
    • Breathing problems
    • Diseases that affect the nerves and brain, such as myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Psychological conditions

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of aphonia are:

  • Frequent talking or yelling
  • Smoking
  • Surgery on or around the larynx



Symptoms may be:

  • Inability to speak or make sound
  • Hoarseness
  • Throat pain
  • Problems swallowing


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

The cause of the symptoms may not be clear. In this case, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. This doctor may use an instrument called a laryngoscope to check the vocal cords. Other tests may check voice function.

If test results are unclear, you may be referred to other specialists.



Treatment depends on the cause. Laryngitis may be eased with:

  • Home care, such as:
    • Resting the voice and drinking plenty of fluids
    • Not smoking
    • Using a cool mist humidifier
  • Medicine, such as over-the-counter pain relievers

Depending on the cause, other treatments may be:

  • Voice therapy—if the condition is due to voice overuse or vocal nodules
  • Medicine to control acid reflux
  • Surgery to remove growths


The risk of voice loss may be reduced by:

  • Not smoking.
  • Avoiding irritants, such as:
    • Fumes and toxins
    • Excessive talking, yelling, or whispering
  • Treating underlying conditions

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.