Laryngitis: An inflammation of the larynx. Inflammation of the larynx is most often caused by viral infections. In these cases, other symptoms, such as sore throat, cough, difficulty swallowing, and fever, generally occur. The voice changes may persist after the fever and other symptoms of acute infection have resolved. Laryngitis can also occur as a result of irritation to the vocal cords. People such as singers, cheerleaders, or even small children after bouts of screaming may find that they become hoarse or speak with a 'gravelly' voice after prolonged overuse. Environmental causes of irritation of the airway that can result in inflammation of the larynx include exposure to tobacco smoke or other chemicals.