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Voice Loss Often Requires Complete Silence for Proper Healing

Severe cases may result in vocal cord hemorrhage

DAYTON, Ohio (March 13, 2018) – Our voice is one of our most prized possessions, serving as a tool to communicate and help us function throughout the day.

That’s why losing our voice to any degree or for any length of time can sometimes feel like we’re living life with one hand tied behind our back. It’s limiting, frustrating and, in many cases, painful, according to Laura Tully, MD, an otolaryngologist with Premier ENT Associates.

“It can mean a number of different things when people complain of losing their voice or having a voice that is hoarse,” said Tully, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “It may mean their voice is a little bit rough or that it sounds a bit breathy. Others may complain that it hurts to speak or it takes a lot of effort to speak.”

Viral laryngitis, is the most common reason people lose their voice or become hoarse. Typically, it's associated with other viral symptoms such as a runny nose, headache or just feeling crummy, she said. The effect of a virus can leave a voice sounding raspy and rough and can make it very difficult to speak. 

Laryngitis that comes as a result of a virus can last from one to three weeks or essentially for as long as the virus itself is present. The change in a person’s voice or its disappearance altogether happens because the virus has caused the area around the vocal cords to swell, Dr. Tully said.

Individuals who have lost their voice due to a viral illness will usually find that it will go away with supportive care. Dr. Tully recommends the following steps to help the healing process:

Rest is best – Complete voice rest is the best form of treatment. This means absolutely no talking including whispering, clearing the throat and coughing. Even the smallest amount of effort can have an impact on a person’s vocal cords. 

Hydrate the cords – Hydration can help soothe the vocal cords that are swollen or inflamed. Consider drinking fluids such as water or tea with lemon to avoid creating a dry environment in the throat.

Cough drop caution – Cough drops can help soothe the throat especially when you’re on the move and can’t always keep a drink close at hand. However, be careful to choose non-mentholated drops. Menthol can feel as if it is soothing to the throat at first, but actually is an ingredient that can have a drying effect to the vocal cords.

Antibiotics aren’t the answer – The vast majority of laryngitis is the result of a virus and a virus cannot be treated or cured with the use of an antibiotic. Be careful not to take antibiotics for an illness that has not been found to be caused by bacteria.

People who may not have the option to rest their voice such as singers or teachers can experience a sudden loss in their voice. This can signal a vocal cord hemorrhage.

“This is typically what happens when you hear about a singer who has to cancel a show,” Dr. Tully said. “The treatment for that is complete voice rest with no speaking at all for a period of time. You don’t want to speak through the hemorrhage because it can cause permanent scaring of the vocal cords.” 

Those who get laryngitis from an illness or from yelling too much at their favorite sporting event usually have nothing to worry about. Dr. Tully said individuals should consider it a good time to sit back and take life a little easier until the voice is strong enough to speak again.

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