Loss of Voice
Loss of voice (also called aphonia) may take several different forms. You may have a partial loss of your voice and it may sound hoarse. Or, you may have complete loss of your voice and it may sound like a whisper. Loss of voice can come on slowly or quickly depending on the cause.
Aphonia is different from aphasia, which is a language disorder.
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Aphonia is usually due to problems with the voice box (called the larynx). However, there can be other causes, including:
Conditions that affect the vocal cords or airway. This may involve injury, swelling, or disease, such as:
- Laryngitis caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection
- Vocal abuse (yelling or talking excessively)
- Exposure to airborne irritants, such as smoke or air pollution
- Acid reflux (such as heartburn)
- Thickening of the vocal chords
- Nodules or polyps on the vocal chords
- Muscle tension dysphonia
- Damage to the nerves that affect how the larynx functions
- Laryngeal or thyroid cancer
- Removal of larynx due to cancer
- Breathing problems that affect the ability to speak
- Neurological disorders (such as myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
- Psychological conditions (such as hysterical aphonia)
Last reviewedNovember 2012by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.