7 things that can damage your vocal cords and tips to take care of your voice


New Delhi: It’s quite normal to experience hoarseness or vocal problems when you have a bad cold, or the morning after singing at a loud concert or screaming at a ball game. Occasional vocal chord injury does not require medical help as it usually heals on its own, however, overusing or misusing your voice frequently increases the risk of permanent damage. Meanwhile, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu has been put on steroid medication and injections after continuous speech caused damage to his vocal cords.

Sidhu’s office issued a statement saying that the cricketer-turned-politician is under medication at the moment and in the process of a quick recovery to return back to campaigning at the earliest. In most cases of temporary damage to vocal cords, a little care such as vocal rest and good hydration can help recover fairly.

What causes vocal chord damage?

While we all know that too much yelling or chronic screaming can cause vocal chord injury, there are some other lesser-known factors that can affect the larynx, commonly called the voice box. These include:

  1. Singing too loudly or with poor technique
  2. Speaking too loudly or too low
  3. Overusing your voice when you have a cold or bronchitis
  4. Uncontrolled chronic acid reflux
  5. Smoking
  6. Excessive coughing
  7. Chronic throat clearing

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are many health conditions that can affect the larynx – such as airway conditions, infectious or inflammatory conditions, neurological conditions, autoimmune conditions, cancerous or precancerous lesions, benign vocal chord lesions, vocal cord motion abnormalities, psychological trauma, etc.

Additionally, various surgical procedures, including the thyroid, cardiac, thoracic, spine, and vascular surgery can also affect the voice box. Sometimes, placement of a breathing tube during anesthesia or hospitalisation can also be linked to problems in the larynx.

Signs you have a vocal cord problem

  • You may have a voice problem if :
  • You have persistent hoarseness
  • Your voice suddenly sounds deeper
  • Your throat often feels raw, achy, or strained
  • You find yourself repeatedly clearing your throat
  • You have lost the ability to hit some high notes when singing

Consult a doctor or a laryngologist if you think you have a voice problem or if you have hoarseness for two weeks or more, chronic vocal fatigue, or pin while producing sound.

How to protect your voice

The following tips may help prevent or treat voice problems:

  • Eat a healthy diet consisting of plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc. Avoid spicy foods that can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus, resulting in heartburn or GERD.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine as these can dehydrate your vocal cords.
  • Exercise regularly to increase stamina and muscle tone. This will help provide good posture and breathing, which are necessary for proper speaking, recommends the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes avoiding smoking.
  • Get enough rest to help prevent physical fatigue that has a negative effect on the voice.

The fact is that damage isn’t likely to occur overnight, so, the key is to take care of your voice over the long term. You should avoid speaking or singing especially when your voice is hoarse or tired. Rest your voice during illness, ensuring that you do not overuse your voice.

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