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My Child’s Hoarse Voice


Most parents take their child’s hoarse/ rough voice lightly. Even though a hoarse/ rough voice is not life threatening, but it affects a child’s self-confidence. A child’s self-confidence may decrease because they become the source of teasing. They may be embarrassed because their voice is different from their peers..

Four to six in 100 children around the world have a hoarse/ rough voice disorder. Hoarse/ rough voice disorder is more common among boys aged 7-12 years old.

What is VOICE?

VOICE is sound created by vibrations of the vocal folds in the larynx. The vocal folds will abduct (open) to allow air in and out of the lungs. The vocal folds adduct (close) to produce the vibrations when we speak. You may feel this vibration when you put your palm against your neck and say /aaaaaaah/. This sound is then modified by the movement of the lips, tongue, jaw and soft palate to produce intelligible speech.

Our voice needs to have:

Pitch (Frequency)

Vocal pitch can be low or high in speech

Volume (Instensity)

Voice needs to be loud or soft to show firmness and emotions


By hearing a voice we can know if it is clear, hoarse, rough, harsh, tensed or breathy


The voice can be heard as being hypernasal (sounds through the nose) or hyponasal (sounds as if having a stuffy nose)

What is Voice Disorder?

Children are said to have a voice disorder when pitch/ loudness/ quality/ nasality deviate from other children of the same age and gender.

Voice quality that is severe can make it hard for children to communicate effectively and they may have low self-confidence.

What activities can cause hoarse/ rough voice disorders?

Children have a higher potential in developing hoarse/ rough voice disorders if there is vocal abuse such as:

  • Excessive talking or singing – choir practice, concerts, sports, cheering in a noisy environment, trying to increase voice loudness when having a sore throat/ tired
  • Frequent shouting/ screaming/ cheering
  • Exaggerated imitation of cartoon voices
  • Crying and prolonged temper tantrums
  • Excessive laughter during play
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Frequent whispering
  • Lack of water intake

The above activities may induce formation of nodules/ cysts/ polyps on the vocal folds that changes the original thickness of the vocal folds. This change in thickness is the cause of change in voice quality.

In addition, children that often catch an infection/ laryngitis/ sore throat are also prone to have hoarse/ rough voice disorder.

Why hoarse/ rough voice disorder does not occur in other children?

All children enjoy activities like singing, cheering, shouting and laughing. The difference is that these activities are not done every day, every time or excessively.

What can you do to help?

Often times, hoarse/ rough voice disorder is not harmful and will get better with or without professional help.

To make sure the hoarse/ rough voice disorder in your child does not persist, encourage your child to have vocal rest by speaking only when necessary, no shouting or speaking too loud.

Keep hydrated by frequently drinking water especially when he/she is having sore throat/ laryngitis.

Seek for help by seeing an Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat) Specialist and a Speech-Language Therapist for the appropriate treatment in the nearest hospital if the hoarse/ rough voice persists.


  1. Martins, R.H.G, Ribeiro, C.B.H, de Mello, B.M.Z.D & Branco, A. 2012. Journal of Voice. Vol. 26 No.5. pg 674.e17-674.e20
  2. Boone, D.R. & Mc Farlane, S.C. (2000).The voice & Voice Therapy (6th Edition). Boston : Allyn & Bacon
Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer : Rosmah Suriani bt Mohd Raini
Translator : Angela Yew Wei Ching
Accreditor : Fairus bt. Mukhtar
Reviewer : Nadwah bt. Onwi