Loss of Voice



Loss of voice is often due to problems with the voice box (larynx). It may be caused by:

  • 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 cords
  • 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

In some people, it may also be caused by mental health problems.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of loss of voice are:

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



Symptoms may be:

  • An inability to speak or make sound
  • Hoarseness
  • Throat pain
  • Problems swallowing


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

The cause of the symptoms may not be clear. An ear, nose, and throat doctor may be needed. A special scope may be used to check the vocal cords. Other tests may check voice function.

If test results are not clear, other specialists may be needed.



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

  • Home care, such as resting the voice, using a humidifier, and not smoking
  • Over the counter pain relievers

Depending on the cause, other treatments may be:

  • Voice therapy
  • Medicine to control acid reflux
  • Surgery to remove growths


The risk of voice loss may be lowered by:

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

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.