Voice Wellness

Hoarseness after talking all-day or cheering at a sporting event is a common sign of vocal chord fatigue. Most of the time it goes away, but if you continue to stress your voice, you can find yourself with some serious vocal damage. We’ll tell you when it’s time to be careful.

For a year-and-a-half, Laura, a professional singer, was silenced. Not by job troubles or disease, but by chasing her dog. It was three days after her mother’s death.

Laura says, “I ran after him. I screamed, ‘Stop! Don’t! Come Back!’ By the time I caught him, I was totally hoarse.”

What Laura didn’t realize is three days of crying over her mother’s death had irritated her vocal cords, making them more vulnerable to damage from shouting. A head and neck specialist found Laura had blisters on her vocal cords the size of BB’s. The blisters, called polyps, changed her voice.

Besides crying, other aggravators include colds, over-the-counter antihistamines, which can dry the cords, and excessive coughing & throat clearing, which can make them swell. A scratchy throat or “funny sounding” voice are clues.

Hoarseness is an important symptom, and one not to be ignored. Surgery or voice therapy can help repair the damage.

Laura says, “I just don’t yell any more. Whatever is going to happen, I’m not going to yell.” The stakes for Laura are just too high — she’s a professional singer — but thanks to therapy, the notes no longer are.

When you experience hoarseness, get this tip: Don’t whisper. A low, breathy voice is much more protective. If your hoarseness lasts more than two weeks you should see a doctor.

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