Evaluating Hoarseness

Examination for hoarseness

A complete history of the hoarseness, including vocal quality, duration of hoarseness, aggravating or alleviating symptoms, and any other associated symptoms such as cough, postnasal drainage, or sore throat will be helpful to the physician in determining the cause. Medications taken or changed in the recent past should be mentioned as well as any surgery that was performed on the head, neck, or chest area. Any other abnormal sensations such as muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing should be discussed. A history of smoking, even if it was in the past, is important to mention to the nurse or doctor.

The physician will perform a complete head and neck exam, including evaluation of the nose, mouth, neck, and lungs. A special procedure to visualize the vocal cords, called a laryngoscopy, will be performed. This procedure can be done with a camera that is a flexible fiberoptic design, or with a quartz Hopkins scope. Your physician will determine which kind of laryngoscopy would best diagnose your problem. The acoustic signal of the voice may be measured by a special computer program to analyze the specific sound perturbation of the voice.

Many times the exam will be recorded for medical record purposes or to show the patient the abnormality and discuss treatment. If surgical treatment is necessary, step by step instructions will be given to ensure that the patient and family understand the process of recovery and voice rebuilding. Recovery may include speech therapy or special vocal exercises.