If you have aphonia or loss of voice, it means you can’t make yourself heard because your voice sounds hoarse, or you can‘t speak above a whisper. Sometimes you can’t speak at all. Other times you may not want to speak because you think your voice sounds strange or different. Healthcare providers treat aphonia with voice therapy exercises.
If you have aphonia or loss of voice, it means you can’t make yourself heard because your voice sounds hoarse, or you can‘t speak above a whisper. Sometimes you can’t speak at all. Other times you may not want to speak because you think your voice sounds strange or different. Aphonia is a voice disorder that can affect anyone but is often seen in people who constantly raise their voice to be heard. Healthcare providers treat aphonia with voice therapy exercises.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Researchers estimate approximately 3% to 9% of people in the United States deal with aphonia. But some healthcare providers think the actual number is higher, as many people do not seek medical help when they lose their voice.
The most common — and most obvious — symptom is not being able to speak up or be heard when you speak. Suddenly losing your voice is another aphonia symptom.
Aphonia is considered a functional voice disorder. People who have functional aphonia are fine physically. They may have lost their voice because they aren’t using their voice normally.
You may have guessed — or experienced — that bellowing non-stop during an hour-long soccer match will take a toll on your voice. (Healthcare providers call this phonotrauma.)
But for some people, damaging their voice is an occupational hazard. Here are some examples of what healthcare providers call vocal fatigue:
Psychogenic aphonia, or psychogenic conversion aphonia, is when you suddenly lose your voice due to emotional or psychological stress. People who have psychogenic aphonia can speak but only in strained whispers.
The terms hysterical aphonia and psychogenic aphonia both describe losing your voice because of emotional or psychological distress.
Providers start diagnosis by asking about your voice problem. For example, they may ask you to describe your problem, when it started and if your voice problem comes and goes. (Providers will find ways you can tell your story even though you can’t speak as you normally do.)
They may ask about your medical history and general health. They may also ask how you use your voice. Providers call this your daily voice hygiene.
Healthcare providers may want to examine your larynx. Here are examples of tests they may perform:
Healthcare providers typically treat aphonia with voice therapy. Your provider may recommend you work with a speech therapist. Your therapist will tailor treatment to your specific situation. Treatment may include breathing exercises and voice exercises.
Psychogenic aphonia is loss of voice due to emotional or psychological stress. Providers typically recommend you combine mental health therapy with speech therapy.
Homeopathic aphonia treatments focus on easing physical symptoms such as hoarseness. Lemon water or a warm drink made with water, honey and thyme are examples of homeopathic aphonia treatments. Ask your healthcare provider about adding homeopathic treatment to your treatment plan.
Aphonia typically happens when you overuse your voice or strain your voice. Fortunately, there are several things you can to protect your voice even if you need to speak up to do your job. Here are some suggestions:
Most people who have aphonia recover their lost voices after speech therapy. If you have aphonia, you may benefit from information on protecting your voice.
Aphonia happens when you strain your voice. Once your voice is back, here are some steps you can take to keep your voice strong:
Dysphonia happens when there’s something wrong with the structure of your mouth, tongue, throat or vocal cords. Velopharyngeal dysfunction (VPD) is an example of dysphonia. If you have aphonia, your vocal structure is fine but you’re not using your voice the right way.
Aphonia clericorum is when you lose your voice after injuring your larynx or having a disease that affects your larynx, such as laryngeal cancer.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Many of us would be lost without our voices. Being able to speak and understood connects us to people around us. Losing your voice could be losing your livelihood, so it can be traumatic if you suddenly lose your voice. Aphonia happens when you lose your voice because you’re not using your voice the right way. If you’ve been diagnosed with aphonia, chances are speech therapy will help you regain your voice and how to care for your voice. It’s fine to raise your voice, as long as you’re doing it in a way that doesn’t cause you to lose your voice. If you’re concerned about your voice, communicate that concern to your healthcare provider. They’ll hear you and help you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/18/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.