Long-Term Voice Loss
  • I have been struggling with some sort of laryngitis, associated initially with a flu and still with a bad cough, since (old) Passion Sunday. My voice was completely out of commission that week, I was able to groan out the propers to a psalm-tone with a four-to-five-note range by Palm Sunday, and now my voice is able to hold a part from between bass-clef B and just touching the E above middle C (my normal range is from that B to about treble A).

    I have been unfortunately teaching my normal load of courses & music lessons and running rather rowdy drama rehearsals after school, not to mention at least contributing the propers to my regular round of services/Holy Week (and two hours of EF Tenebrae on Good Friday and Holy Saturday morning, Saturday as a precentor), but I have been hydrating much more than normal. Given the poor opportunities to rest my voice, is this a normal and promising progress in recovery, or should I be concerned that there are still issues and get them looked into?
  • Id say you just need more rest, and if it continues maybe see someone. My mother in law is a voice professor and had to have some kind of growths removed from her vocal cords many years back.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • TCJ
    Posts: 836
    I'd be curious to hear comments, too. I lost my voice for about three and a half weeks. It finally came back right before the Triduum (thankfully!). Like you, I hardly had a chance to rest my voice.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    My husband's aunt had mentioned having the same problem. She doesn't sing or anything, but I remember asking her if she was sick (because she was hoarse) and she said she had been sick a little over a month before and couldn't shake the residual laryngitis. (my dad also mentioned having the same problem)
    She's fine now, though. Seriously give your throat a real rest. Best of luck to you.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    I have been unfortunately teaching my normal load of courses & music lessons and running rather rowdy drama rehearsals after school,

    Assuming you have some singing training.... you need to apply your "no tension, head voice" to your speaking voice. Most of us push our speaking voice too low to sound more authoritative and masculine (both men and women do this). The result - most people speak about 5th lower, or more, than their natural voice (the dead center of your singing range).
    Thanked by 2NihilNominis Jahaza
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    To learn a low-stress approach to singing, see the website of the McClosky Institute of Voice and find a certified teacher near you.
  • Thanks much for the advice!

    Adam, I do have training, and I actually tend to speak right in the middle of my tenor singing range, very high, generating my head-voice sound. Is speaking in this way equivalent to resting my voice?

    chonak, likewise I usually sing in a low-stress way; the problem is that in my present condition, the only way I can make sound is to put significant stress on my voice (that is getting better).
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Adam, I do have training, and I actually tend to speak right in the middle of my tenor singing range, very high, generating my head-voice sound. Is speaking in this way equivalent to resting my voice?

    No you need rest, also. That was a suggestion for avoiding fatigue in the first place with all your talking. But if you're doing that already, I'm fresh out of additional advice. Except, maybe talk less.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    I would second the suggestions for rest. I would also add that you drink plenty of water during the rest period, and make sure that you are eating well also to keep up your strength. I would recommend that you avoid singing tasks altogether until your voice has recovered its capabilities. Rest, eat well, and drink plenty of water.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,608
    You may have a bacterial sinus infection causing a prolonged post-nasal drip that is settling lower. While a rhinovirus or influenza would not be responsive to an antibiotic, the presence of a virus can lower immune resistance to a co-existing bacterial infection that would be responsive to an antibiotic. (I get this, which is why I know.)

    In any event, you should not sing with laryngitis. Period.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,355
    Our choir too has suffered, one of our Cantors has had a cough / sore throat for 3 weeks, and various other choir members have had sore throats / coughs / lost their voice but for shorter times. It seems it effects people differently, some worse than others! Seems to be a strange virus.

    Our choir is in London, England!
  • Steve QSteve Q
    Posts: 109
    We all need to rest our voices just like an athlete needs to rest his/her body. That being said, there are many potential voice problems that only a medical doctor can diagnose. I went through a period in which I thought I was losing my voice, and I tried all kinds of home remedies with little effect. Eventually I thought my age was simply getting the better of me and began to resign myself to the thought that I may never sing again the way I had during my prime. But then I went to see an ENT doc (Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist) who diagnosed a problem with my thyroid. With proper treatment and medication, I got my old singing voice back again (such as it is).

    My advice - don't wait. See your doctor now. If he/she recommends a specialist, go. You have nothing to lose and no reason to delay!
  • I had a cough for a while and I did the long psalm on the Easter Vigil (Send forth your spirit Lord) which is 5 verses... I don't actually know how I made it through.

    I took a cough drop at the begining of the exultet hoping it would melt before I did psalm, and it did, but the high notes were just horrible...
  • scholistascholista
    Posts: 109
    I teach high school Spanish full-time and direct a schola. I used to lose my singing voice once a year, sometimes for three to four weeks at a time.

    At the suggestion of an otolaryngologist, I worked with a speech therapist for several months and I haven't lost my voice since - including weeks with a severe head cold.

    Among other very helpful speaking and singing techniques were: daily voice warm up and daily hydration.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I am not a physician, but I do have an MM in vocal pedagogy as well as having been down this road myself. Here's some practical advice:

    When talking about voice loss, prevention is key. As far as treatment options go, you are pretty much limited to rest, surgery, or medication. The first thing an ENT is likely to recommend is rest. Most non-serious vocal problems can be cured with at least 48 hours complete vocal rest—no whispering—with the possible addition steaming (inhaling water vapor for 10 minutes several times per day).

    If that is not effective, based on your symptoms a doctor may recommend laryngoscopy, either by depressing the tongue and inserting a laryngoscope into the mouth to look at the cords, or by using a small camera that is inserted through the nose. This will help determine if there is any issue with the cords themselves, like bowing, incomplete closure, nodules (growths), or if there are signs of inflammation.

    If there is inflammation caused by acid reflux, they may recommend dietary and lifestyle changes or medication such as acid-reducers or proton pump inhibitors. The latter have recently been linked to a number of side effects including dementia and may be recommended only as a second-line treatment option.

    If there is acute inflammation, and you are a serious professional user of the voice (think international opera singer with an upcoming performance), your doctor may administer a cortisone injection. But this treatment option is generally reserved for very special and urgent cases.

    Generally surgery will only be considered for vocal trauma or nodules that do not respond to rest. I would be skeptical of any doctor who was too eager to pursue surgery as an option.

    As a follow-up, speech therapy may be recommended to address issues such as hyper- or hypophonation, glottal onset, and vocal fry.

    In short, rest your voice! And be thankful that with modern technology like smart phones, iPads, and instant messaging, you probably won't have to walk around with a pad of paper and a pen like we used to back in my conservatory days.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • :) Thank you all.

    I am now a water addict with his voice back. (And frankly, such a long time just listening has made me much more sensitive to production. I think it's better than it was.)
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    Good to hear.

    My longest bout of voice-loss/laryngitis was my sophomore year of high school: for 3.5 months after our biology class dissected fetal pigs (1 for every 2 students). All those preservatives used to keep it stable for class-use did a real number on my throat. It was awful.
  • What Incantu said is excellent advice.

    My degrees are in vocal performance, and I teach singing to groups and individuals. In grad school ('03-'07)we had an exchange program with grad students in the speech pathology dept. over the course of two years. It was exhilarating and informative for this voice nerd.

    At any rate, do rest. And do see a doctor. Speech therapy is also a great thing for professional voice users. It can help teach you incredibly helpful preventive measures and vocal hygiene.

  • Also, with your teaching schedule you might want to consider using a personal amplification device for larger classes or situations that demand talking over people. A thought.
    Thanked by 2CCooze scholista
  • scholistascholista
    Posts: 109
    ...consider using a personal amplification device...

    I have done this, too, with good results.
  • Chef
    Posts: 5
    I've had this same problem, saw a therapist and found that carbonated water in the form of tonic,
    plain carbonated and if lucky, just plain water (all at room temp) has really helped me out. My
    health has been compromised and I now need to reschedule with the therapist for continued assistance. My voice still keeps cutting in and out, it drives me nuts!!! I love to sing but I'm not going to destroy what God gave me. I especially love Latin and German pieces to perform.
    Some day...some day, SOON!!! I hope & pray.

    Sincerely & Musically,