Do you ever get hoarse? Have you ever completely lost your voice? Do you tend to lose your voice when you get a cold? Are you ever hoarse after singing or speaking? Have you ever wondered what to do if your voice is hoarse? What if there is a way to quickly heal vocal hoarseness or avoid getting hoarse in the first place?
Well, as a matter of fact, there is.
If you were to search for help regarding hoarseness or lost voice on the internet, or ask your ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor) or laryngologist, you would learn that acute hoarseness and loss of voice could be due to factors such as bacterial or viral infection, allergies, acid reflux, smoking and vocal abuse.
You may be diagnosed with terms such as laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, strep throat etc. Know that every “–itis” simply means that there is an inflammation. So Laryngitis means that there is an inflammation of the larynx. Inflammation can be due to viral infection, bacterial infection, acid reflux, vocal abuse etc.
An ENT would treat a bacterial infection with antibiotics and would also prescribe rest and silence. From other sources you may be advised to drink lemon tea, herbal tea, tea with honey, chicken soup, cough drops, throat lozenges, etc.
But what if you found out that the allergies, infection, acid reflux, illness or other difficulties didn't cause hoarseness?
Let’s ask ourselves this question:
What really happens when your voice becomes hoarse?
Let's first look at how sound is produced.
Your voice is produced when your vocal cords (or vocal folds) come together and vibrate. If they can't do that, there will be no sound. So let’s imagine a day when you talk or sing a lot and you start getting more and more hoarse. What is it that is happening?
Well, if you need to be heard, you probably experience more and more effort to produce sound. This effort brings with it that you use muscles that would normally not be used on a good day.
As soon as there is weakness or dysfunction somewhere in our body, the body will always compensate. For example, when you get an infection, the body produces the heat of a fever to fight it. If you hurt your foot, but still need to move forward, muscles will compensate and you will walk differently.
When your voice becomes irritated or fatigued, compensatory muscles kick into action. Desperate to produce sound, you use more and more effort, which results in more muscle tension and worsening of any potential inflammation. If the tension becomes so severe that the vocal cords are unable to vibrate together, you have lost your voice. Swelling could be involved, which may have gotten worse because of the extra effort to speak or sing, but often swelling is not the primary problem.
A lost voice is often not due to inflammation, but is rather a tension/cramping condition that can be eased rapidly. And almost like magic, the voice can produce sound again.
For many this compensatory tension is habitual and the voice is therefore susceptible to any kind of irritant. Many have a tendency to get hoarse simply because of weakness. Naturally, any irritant will then create havoc to an already weak voice.
You should know that people with strong functional voices are not all that affected by a cold.
Also keep in mind that if you engage in voice training you develop such an awareness of your instrument that when you start to feel “under the weather” you will know the best way to warm up and keep the voice performing. You will know what to do before your voice becomes hoarse!
You then know how to produce sound without having to add extra effort. that increases tension and adds swelling of sensitive tissues. You also know when it is time to employ effective vocal exercises to create free vibration and when it's best to be silent!
A well-trained speaker or singer knows how to protect the body from irritants and infections, and how to recover quickly when the voice has had too much. Basically, a trained speaker/singer learns to recognize the signs before the voice "goes out," and therefore is able to prevent hoarseness in the first place.
On a good day we can get away with anything. On a a bad day we need skills. It is certainly more difficult to function at our peak when we're attacked by irritants. But if you keep your body healthy, it won't succumb quite as easily to bacteria and viruses.
(There many other issues that need to be addressed when it comes to chronic hoarseness, which might be classified as voice disorders.)
In summary: If you develop a greater awareness of your voice and rebalance the muscles that are involved in creating sound you do not need to become hoarse again.