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Initially, the doctor will question you in detail about your voice, and generally focus on two areas: precise details concerning the problem for which you are seeking help, and the nature and extent of your usual voice use. Reviewing the questions you are likely to be asked before your visit may help you give more thorough answers.
It can be difficult to describe a voice problem. “Hoarseness” is a term that means different things to different people, and can encompass a variety of problems. Being as precise as possible helps the doctor to understand what to look for.
The physician will likely also ask for information regarding general medical problems and previous surgeries you may have had. Some of this information may seem irrelevant, but occasionally it contains important clues that lead to the nature of the problem. Offering a detailed history ensures that your physician can be as accurate as possible in making a diagnosis, establishing the cause of the problem, and tailoring treatment to you.
Throughout your examination, the doctor will be listening to your voice itself, as much as what you are saying. The quality of the voice itself – fluency, pitch, volume, smoothness – helps the physician form a preliminary impression of what type of problem might be present. This in turn helps determine what kinds of tests will be done.
Following a discussion of your history, the doctor will usually perform a complete head and neck examination, which is particularly important for smokers. You may be asked to give a voice sample by repeating sounds or phrases. The examination then turns to the larynx and vocal folds.