Complete Silence Often Best Way To Heal Your Voice

Health Minute     Summer 2018

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Losing your voice can be extremely frustrating, as it leaves you without what most of us consider our main source of communication.

Many times, it can also be painful, says Laura Tully, MD, an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose, and throat physician.

“It can mean a number of different things when people complain of losing their voice or having a voice that’s hoarse,” Dr. 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.”

Dr. Tully explains what it can mean when someone says they are losing their voice. 

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Viral laryngitis is the most common reason you lose your voice, sound raspy, have a rough voice, or have difficulty speaking. You might also have other symptoms, such as a headache, runny nose, or just generally feeling bad.

This kind of laryngitis lasts between one and three weeks, Dr. Tully says. The change in your voice happens because the virus causes the area around your vocal cords to swell.

Dr. Tully recommends a variety of self-care routines that can help you heal your lost or rough voice: 

  • Cough drops, with caution. Cough drops can help soothe your sore throat, but make sure to choose a non-menthol kind. Menthol can feel soothing, but it has a drying effect on the vocal cords.
  • Hydrate often. Drinking plenty of fluids can soothe your swollen vocal cords. Try drinking things like water or tea with lemon that will hydrate rather than dry out your throat.
  • Rest is best. Giving your voice a complete break is the best thing you can do. Make sure to not only avoid talking, but also avoid whispering, clearing your throat, and coughing as much as you can.

In most cases of laryngitis the cause is a virus, which means antibiotics won’t work to treat it.

Sometimes, people such as singers and teachers, who don’t have the option to rest their voices, can have a sudden loss of their voice. This can be a sign of a vocal cord hemorrhage.

“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 get laryngitis from yelling too much at a concert or from an illness, you shouldn’t have to worry about a more serious problem. Dr. Tully says you should make it a time to take it easy until your voice is strong enough to speak again.

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