by Mary Cresse
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:
Factors that may increase your chance of developing aphonia include:
Symptoms may include:
Call your doctor if you have any of the following:
Call for emergency medical services right away or go to the emergency room if you:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The cause of your symptoms may not be obvious. You may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. This doctor may use an instrument called a laryngoscope to examine your vocal cords. Other tests may also be done to evaluate your voice function.
If your doctor is concerned that there may be a neurological or psychological cause, you may be referred to other specialists.
You can take the following steps to help ease laryngitis:
Other treatments depend on the specific cause, such as:
To help reduce your chance of aphonia:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
Speech-Language & Audiology Canada
Casthely PA, Labagnara J. Hoarseness and vocal cord paralysis following coronary artery bypass surgery. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 1992;6(2):263-264.
Common problems that can affect your voice. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
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Accessed August 14, 2017.
Laryngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115115/Laryngitis. Updated October 18, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2017.
Maniecka-Aleksandrowicz B, Domeracka-Kolodziej A, et al. Management and therapy in functional aphonia. Otolaryngol Pol. 2006;60(2):191-197.
Sancho JJ. Pascual-Damieta M, et al. Risk factors for transient vocal cord palsy after thyroidectomy. Br J Surg. 2008;95(8):961-967.
Vocal cord disorders. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide website. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/vocal-cord-disorders. Accessed August 14, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 7/14/2020