Vocal cords are a pair of structures in our throat (our larynx) that vibrate. They are the source of all the sound we produce. When we are hoarse, something has changed about those vibrations, and the goal of a physician should be to identify the cause of that hoarseness.
Interestingly, there are only two ways to be hoarse:
- Air is leaking when you do not want it to leak.
- The vocal cords are vibrating irregularly.
In order to diagnose a vocal cord problem that causes hoarseness, we need to look for one of these two findings. Ideally, a physician will look with a camera at the vocal cords and identify either a gap which is leaking air between the vocal cords, or he or she will find some asymmetry between the cords causing them to vibrate at different pitches. In every patient complaining of hoarseness, we will find one of these two problems. Fortunately, it is very easy to see air leaking or vocal cords vibrating irregularly, at least with the technology available today. Under this section, diagnose, you will find details on how patients are examined and how the cause of hoarseness is identified.