Almost everyone has lost their voice or experienced hoarseness at one point in time. It may occur when we are under the weather or the morning after singing along at a loud concert. While these situations only cause temporary damage to vocal cords, other conditions can lead to more severe damage.
What are the symptoms of damaged vocal cords?
- Noisy breathing
- Throat pain or discomfort
- Loss of vocal pitch
- Choking or coughing while swallowing food, drinks or saliva
- Frequent breaths while speaking
- Inability to speak loudly
- Frequent throat clearing
What can cause damaged vocal cords?
With the many negative effects of smoking, damage to your vocal cords is one of them. Smoking is a form of vocal cord abuse, and with frequent damage to the vocal cords, you will see a change in the way your voice works and sounds. Smoking can lead to the complete loss of your voice or chronic laryngitis.
Uncontrolled acid reflux
Acid reflux is a condition in which the stomach contents leak backward from the stomach into the esophagus (food pipe). Acid reflux usually results in heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest. The stomach acid that is regurgitated through the esophagus can irritate your vocal cords and throat, leaving you with a hoarse voice.
Excessive strain on vocal cords
Chronic vocal fatigue can result from overuse of the voice. This is usually found in professional voice users such as singers, public speakers and teachers. Vocal nodules also arise in the overuse of the vocal cords. Vocal nodules are small, callous-like, noncancerous growths on the vocal cords caused by vocal abuse. Nodules can cause the voice to be hoarse, low and breathy.
Forcing your voice through a cold
If you are experiencing a cold or sickness that’s affecting your voice, it is best to give your vocal cords a break and to refrain from overuse. When you force your voice while having a cold, your vocal cords are prone to swelling which can lead to laryngitis.
How can I protect my voice?
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, try these tips to lower the chance of developing vocal cord disorders:
- Give your voice a rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Moderate your consumption of alcohol and caffeine
- Get relief for acid reflux
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet
- Avoid using the extremes of your vocal range (screaming or whispering)
If you believe you are experiencing vocal cord damage, it is important to visit a voice specialist. At Totum ENT, we can offer vocal advice to help you sound your best. Schedule an appointment with our voice specialist, Dr. Sarah Stackpole. Call (212) 288-2222 or schedule online.