We’ve all heard of famous singers suddenly having to cancel a concert or an entire tour because they’ve damaged their vocal cords. Sure, using your voice for hours every night is one way to damage your vocal cords, but you don’t have to be a touring singer to do so.
Now that we’re actually going to have some concerts again after 15 months of concert-less COVID annoyance, let’s give July’s blog over to vocal cord damage, and how you can avoid it.
Of course, if you do damage your voice, you need to make an appointment to see Dr. Volpi immediately.
How can you damage your vocal cords?
John Lennon always said that singing “Twist and Shout” could make him hoarse after the show. It makes sense when you consider the strain he used for that particular song. Professionals can overuse their voice and they need to immediately stop and let it heal.
For the rest of us, here are four ways we damage our vocal cords:
- Singing too loudly with poor technique — When you were really belting out those songs by Adele at karaoke night at the neighborhood bar, you pushed your vocal cords too much. Odds are you probably don’t really know how to use them properly to protect them. Adele does, and even she has had to lay low after damaging her vocal cords.
- Uncontrolled acid reflux — If you have chronic acid reflux, the acids rising in your throat can damage your vocal cords over time.
- Forcing your voice when you have bronchitis — When you’re sick and you can barely speak, your body is telling you to lay low. Do so until the cold passes.
- Cigarettes — Obviously cigarette smoking is linked to lung cancer. But it is also linked to throat cancer, where there will be vocal cord damage.
How to protect your voice
If you’ve had a long day as a teacher or you had to make numerous presentations, you may sense that your voice is tired. Listen to it.
- Give your voice a rest — After overusing it all day, tone things down. Speak only quietly and only briefly.
- Drink plenty of fluids — Hot herbal tea is good. So is cooling water.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine — If your voice is tired, these drinks can actually dehydrate your vocal cords.
- Avoid the activity, if possible — If you’ve been yelling at your alma mater’s football games and you feel it in your voice, tone things down. Or skip a few games.
If you have one or two episodes of overuse where you get a little hoarse, it’s unlikely you’ve done any serious damage. Your voice should be back to normal the next day or so. But if the hoarseness lasts for more than two weeks, it’s time to call Dr. Volpi at New York ENT, 212-873-6036. He may prescribe treatment that goes beyond rest, such as corticosteroids for inflammation, antibiotics, or even anti-reflux medication.