All kids strain their voices every now and then: cheering for the home team at a ballgame; belting out a favorite song in the shower; calling out to friends on the playground.
Most of the time, such actions don't do any real harm to the vocal cords, the delicate bands of tissue in the larynx, or voice box. But chronic misuse of the vocal cords — caused by such things as repetitive screaming, yelling, or using the voice in an unnatural way — can lead to hoarseness. When this happens, the voice crackles and sounds rough, raspy, or breathy.
Sounding hoarse for a few hours or the day after a big game is probably nothing to worry about, and usually resolves on its own. However, chronic hoarseness that lasts for days, weeks, or even months needs to be checked out by a doctor. Speech therapy may be required to get the vocal cords back into perfect pitch.
How Vocal Cords Work
When we inhale, oxygen travels through the nose or mouth and down the throat (pharynx), passing through the voice box and windpipe (trachea), to get to the airway passages in the lungs. This route is reversed when exhaling carbon dioxide from the lungs, or talking.
To speak, air is pushed out of the lungs. In the larynx, the vocal cords — a "V"-shaped band of muscle — prepare for making sound by tightening up and moving closer together. As air passes through the vocal cords, they vibrate. This vibration, combined with the movement of the tongue, lips, and teeth, is what makes the sound of the voice.
Chronic misuse of the voice can cause excess wear and tear on the vocal cords. They may stretch too far or rub together, causing small irritations that, if not allowed to heal, turn into small calluses, or vocal cord nodules.
Causes of Chronic Hoarseness
Vocal cord nodules are the primary cause of chronic hoarseness in children. They happen when kids do any of the following for a prolonged period of time:
- yelling, screaming, cheering, or crying
- raising or lowering the pitch of the voice
- speaking in a strained voice, like imitating animals or cartoon characters
- repetitive coughing or throat clearing
- singing or talking without adequate breath (diaphragm support)
- talking extremely loud or fast
- starting words forcefully
Nodules, or growths, on the vocal cords can also be caused by vocal cord paralysis (when vocal cord nerves lose their function), smoke inhalation, chronic sinusitis or allergies, hypothyroidism, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and radiation therapy (for those undergoing treatment for throat cancer).
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
WORKBOOKSMay Workbooks are Here!
WE'VE GOT A GREAT ROUND-UP OF ACTIVITIES PERFECT FOR LONG WEEKENDS, STAYCATIONS, VACATIONS ... OR JUST SOME GOOD OLD-FASHIONED FUN!Get Outside! 10 Playful Activities
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Steps in the IEP Process