Loss of voice is called aphonia. A partial loss of voice may sound hoarse. A complete loss of voice sounds like a whisper. Loss of voice can come on slowly or quickly. It depends on the cause.
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Loss of voice is often due to problems with the voice box (larynx). However, there are many causes, including:
Things that raise the risk of aphonia are:
Symptoms may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
The cause of the symptoms may not be clear. In this case, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. This doctor may use an instrument called a laryngoscope to check the vocal cords. Other tests may check voice function.
If test results are unclear, you may be referred to other specialists.
Treatment depends on the cause. Laryngitis may be eased with:
Depending on the cause, other treatments may be:
The risk of voice loss may be reduced by:
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
Common problems that can affect your voice. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
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Accessed March 29, 2021.
Hartnick C, Ballif C, et al. Indirect vs direct voice therapy for children with vocal nodules: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(2):156-163.
Laryngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/laryngitis Accessed March 29, 2021.
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 March 29, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/29/2021