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Chronic Laryngitis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 2, 2024.

What is Chronic Laryngitis?

Harvard Health Publishing

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, the "voice box" that contains the vocal cords in the upper portion of the neck. Laryngitis occurs in two forms, acute and chronic. Acute laryngitis typically is a brief illness producing hoarseness and a sore throat. In most cases, an upper respiratory tract infection causes it. Chronic laryngitis is a more persistent disorder that produces lingering hoarseness and other voice changes. It usually is painless and has no significant sign of infection.

Chronic Laryngitis

Among adults, the most common causes of chronic laryngitis are:  

Less often, chronic laryngitis can be caused by chronic sinusitis with postnasal drip. Rarely, it can be caused by an inflammatory illness or infection directly involving the vocal cords (such as sarcoidosis or tuberculosis).  


The most common symptom of chronic laryngitis is hoarseness. For the condition to be truly chronic, this hoarseness must persist for at least two weeks. Depending on the cause of chronic laryngitis, other symptoms can include: 


After reviewing your symptoms, your doctor will ask you about your lifestyle, especially:  

Your doctor will want to know the names of all prescription and nonprescription medications you take because some medications have side effects that can mimic the symptoms of chronic laryngitis. For example, hoarseness due to excessive dryness of the throat can be a side effect of certain antihistamines, cough suppressants, diuretics and psychiatric medications. Decongestants or medications for high blood pressure (hypertension) can cause mucus in the throat to thicken. 

Your doctor will examine you, paying special attention to your mouth, throat, nose, ears and the lymph nodes in your neck. Using a special mirror, your doctor will look down your throat and examine your larynx. This exam may be followed by a procedure called laryngoscopy, a more sophisticated method of looking at the larynx using straight or flexible tube-like instruments. If your doctor suspects that you have GERD, additional tests can check for acid reflux in your throat and esophagus.  

Expected Duration

For laryngitis to be truly chronic, hoarseness must last for at least two weeks. Once chronic laryngitis develops, it is usually a long-term problem in people who continue to smoke, drink alcohol heavily, work with irritating dusts or chemicals, or abuse the voice by shouting or constant talking. Chronic laryngitis caused by GERD will last as long as acid reflux continues. 


You can take these steps to help prevent chronic laryngitis:  


If your chronic laryngitis is due to smoking, alcohol use, work-related exposures or voice overuse, your doctor will probably recommend that you follow the standard prevention guidelines. In addition, your doctor may refer you to a voice coach or a speech-language pathologist for voice therapy. Voice therapy teaches you to use your voice correctly and to avoid speaking in ways that might injure your vocal cords. 

If you have chronic laryngitis due to GERD, your doctor may recommend that you try the following:  

If these strategies do not help, your doctor may prescribe medications to decrease acid production in your stomach.  

When To Call A Professional

Hoarseness that doesn't go away or keeps coming back should never be ignored because it also can be a symptom of certain head and neck cancers. People who drink or smoke heavily are at especially high risk of these cancers. So, if hoarseness lasts more than two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist (an otolaryngologist, also called an ear, nose and throat doctor) for evaluation and treatment. 


If you are willing to make lifestyle changes to treat your chronic laryngitis, the outlook is usually very good. This is especially true for people whose chronic laryngitis is related to smoking, alcohol, work exposure or voice abuse. For people with GERD, a combination of dietary changes and medications to decrease acid production can cure chronic laryngitis in up to two-thirds of cases. 

On the other hand, if you have chronic laryngitis and you continue to expose yourself to factors that irritate your larynx, you eventually can develop small nodules or polyps (fingerlike growths) on your vocal cords, which may need to be removed surgically to improve your voice. 

Additional Info

American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.