Loss of Voice
(Aphonia; Partial Loss of Voice; Voice, Loss of; Voice; Partial Loss of)
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.
Aphonia is usually due to problems with the voice box (called the larynx). However, there can be other causes, including:
Risk factors that increase your chance of developing aphonia include:
Symptoms may include:
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you:
Your doctor will ask 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.
General measures that can help ease laryngitis include:
Other treatments depend on the specific cause, such as:
Take the following steps to help reduce your chance of getting aphonia:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists
Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
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Conversion disorder. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at:
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Fact sheet: common problems that can affect your voice. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
Hoarseness or loss of voice. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide website. Available at:
Laryngitis. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at:
Maniecka-Aleksandrowicz B, Domeracka-Kolodziej A, et al. Management and therapy in functional aphonia. Otolaryngol Pol. 2006;60:191-197.
Sancho JJ. Pascual-Damieta M, et al. Risk factors for transient vocal cord palsy after thyroidectomy. Br J Surg. 2008;95:961-967.
Vocal nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Rimas Lukas, MD