Shhh! Rest Your Voice to Heal from Laryngitis

Losing your voice, even for just a short time, can be limiting, frustrating, and sometimes even painful.

Our voices are one of our most important tools for communicating throughout the day, and losing them can be a real struggle, says Laura Tully, MD, an otolaryngologist with Premier ENT Associates, a practice within Premier Physician Network.

“It can mean a number of different things when people complain of losing their voice or having a voice that’s hoarse,” Tully says. “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 cause of lost voices or hoarseness. And, other viral symptoms usually come along with it, including a runny nose, headache, and generally sick feelings. The effect of a virus can leave your voice sounding raspy and rough, and it can make it very difficult to speak.

Viral laryngitis usually lasts between one and three weeks. The way it makes your voice change or disappear altogether happens because the virus causes the area around your vocal cords to swell.

If you lost your voice because of a viral illness, supportive care can usually help you get better. Dr. Tully recommends the following steps to help you through the healing process:

  • Rest is best – Resting your vocal cords completely is the best type of treatment. This means no talking at all, including whispering, clearing your throat, and coughing. Even the smallest amount of strain to talk can affect your vocal cords.
  • Hydrate your cords – Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids can help sooth your swollen or inflamed vocal cords. Some good options are tea or water with lemon.
  • Cough drop caution – Cough drops can help soothe your sore throat, but be careful of which kind you choosing. Menthol cough drops can feel soothing at first, but they can actually have a drying effect on your vocal cords.
  • Antibiotics aren’t the answer – Most laryngitis is viral, and a virus can’t be treated with an antibiotic. It’s important not to take antibiotics for a sickness that your doctor hasn’t found to be caused by bacteria.

Another reason someone might have a sudden lose of their voice is a vocal cord hemorrhage. This is most common among people who aren’t able to rest their voices often, such as teachers and singers.

“This is typically what happens when you hear about a singer who has to cancel a show,” Dr. Tully says. “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.”

If you got laryngitis from virus – or just from yelling to much during a sporting event or concert – don’t worry. Just take it as a cue to rest and quiet down until your voice has time to get back to full-strength again.

For more information about voice loss and how to recover from it, talk with your doctor or make an appointment at Premier ENT Associates to be examined by a board certified ear, nose and throat specialist.