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Hoarse? Caring for Your Voice
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

A hoarse, gravelly sounding voice can be caused by shouting, too much talking, or by a respiratory illness. Laryngitis is the medical term for inflammation of the vocal cords, and usually results from a viral infection. Dealing with a painful, rough, or abnormally low voice not only interferes with speaking, but can present with a host of other symptoms as well.

How Laryngitis Affects the Voice

Laryngitis starts with a tickle in the throat, then quickly progress into a dry, sore sensation. Sometimes it feels like there is something lodged in the throat that no amount of coughing can dispel. Soon aphonia takes hold, the inability speak normally, or in the worst case scenario, merely squeaks or no sound at all. This is due to the inflammation of the mucous membranes in the larynx.

The larynx houses the vocals cords, also known as the voice box, a structure which makes sound production possible, and assists in the respiratory process. Its location is at the level of the base of the tongue. In a case of laryngitis, sometimes the tongue darkens to a deep red and the ears may hurt. If the cause is viral, other symptoms such as fever, stuffy nose, headache and fatigue may arise.

Heat and a Hoarse Voice

When hoarse voice results due to shouting, or simply overusing your voice, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine may diagnosis this condition as related to the element of heat, and to the heart organ. The terms used are Heart Heat or, if symptoms present more severely, Heart Fire.

The vibrations produced during speech, or raising the voice, generate heat, and heat rises. Therefore, too much friction in the voice box creates an environment of excess heat, with the tendency for it to travel upwards, often at a speedy pace. This is the mechanism which can damage the vocal cords and cause a coarse, tired sounding voice.

According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, other signs and symptoms which may accompany conditions of excess heat in the heart include: mental agitation, insomnia, inappropriate laughter, being easily startled, a generally loud voice, constant talking, stuttering, talking while asleep and uncontrollable protruding of the tongue.

Acupuncture Points for a Hoarse Voice

An acupuncture point located on the wrist will help patients regain control over their spirits by cooling down emotionally. This point is called Spirit Gate and when needled, it communicates directly with the heart in order to put out the fire. After releasing the excess heat, the need for yelling or talking excessively lessens.

However, not everyone speaking with a hoarse voice warrants a diagnosis of Heart Heat or Heart Fire. Certain occupations and hobbies require exceptional amounts of talking, lecturing or speech-giving. These patients need a different treatment strategy because the damage to their vocal cords is more physical, with less of an emotional component.

Celestial Prominence, an acupuncture point found near the base of the neck, is a good choice to soothe and remedy overworked vocal cords. This point works so well because of its proximity to the larynx.

For those who can’t speak above a whisper, refraining from hot, spicy foods can help in lessening the amount of heat produced in the small intestine. This in turn, helps the whole body stay cooler, including the heart and the throat. Other smart, cooling food choices include yogurt, cucumbers, melon and room temperature mint tea.

If you find yourself barely able to hear yourself when you speak, consult a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to find out more about this condition.

Find an Acupuncturist to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.