A sudden drop or even the total loss of the voice: it is hoarseness, in the first case, and aphonia, in the second. An abnormal change in the ability to produce vocal sounds and speak normally, which can occur with different levels of severity and usually associated with an inflammation.

Professor Giuseppe Spriano, Head of Otolaryngology in Humanitas, spoke about this in an interview with Tg5.


In general, voice loss is linked to a pathological process involving the larynx, the site of our vocal cords. “In most cases of hoarseness or aphonia, the causes are linked to trivial inflammatory conditions, such as flu, sore throat, pharyngitis or laryngitis. In these cases, the vocal cords become inflamed, swollen and as a result the voice is lowered,” explained the professor.

At the basis of the lowering of the voice, although rarer, there are also other causes such as gastroesophageal reflux, inhalation of toxic or irritating substances to the respiratory tract, chronic cough and a distorted or excessive use of the voice (as in the case of songs, cries or prolonged crying).

Time to Worry and Contact a Specialist

In the situations listed, hoarseness should pass in a few days, especially in the case of simple inflammations such as influenza, “if instead aphonia or lowering of voice lasts over 15 days and in the absence of inflammatory situations triggering, then there may be a more important cause and it is good to seek immediately to a specialist,” suggested Spriano.

For example, it could be “benign forms such as nodules, polyps and warts, or in some cases dysphonies could signal a prelude to laryngeal cancer. Therefore, if the voice is lowered without any particular cause, especially for smokers it is necessary to have a visit from the otorhinolaryngologist”.

Examination and diagnosis

The control of the vocal cords is carried out by an endoscopic examination with optical fibres: it is inserted through the nasal cavities, passes the palate and thus shows the vocal cords.