Check Up: Woman's throat gets tight while singing

January 07, 2019


Tanisse likes to sing. She sings on her church choir and had dreams of singing solo. Recently, she is finding that her throat gets tight while she sings and feels tired, and the words break or won't come out. She's asking for Check-Up's advice on what could be causing her problem and what she should do to regain her singing voice.

Tanisse, there are a lot of medical conditions which can cause voice problems, and we'll mention a few here. But if you are hoarse frequently or notice a change in how your voice sounds for any protracted length of time, you must see an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor without delay for a throat check-up. Some conditions which cause hoarseness are serious.

Some common disorders, which can cause a change in your voice, are:

- Acute Laryngitis (inflammation of the vocal cords which can commonly occur after a viral infection). During such an episode the voice should be rested because serious injury can occur to the vocal cords during such an episode.

- Chronic Laryngitis, which can be caused, for example, by prolonged exposure to smoke or a low-grade yeast infection

- Allergies with post nasal drips which can chronically irritate the vocal cords

- GERD or acid reflux, which can result in acid stomach contents inflaming the vocal cords. This can occur without any sensation of acid burn.

- Rheumatoid arthritis which can cause vocal cord nodules

- Thyroid goitre disorder

- Voice overuse where excessively loud and prolonged use of the voice can cause vocal cord difficulties

- Voice misuse, such as excessive cellular phone use

- Vocal cord nodules or polyps, which are non-cancerous growths which often occur due to over use or misuse of the voice (vocal cords)

These conditions are all readily treatable if the condition is properly diagnosed.

Occasionally vocal cord paralysis or paresis occurs. This is a neurological condition where the vocal cord is weakened or paralysed. It can occur after a viral infection or after neck surgery. Sometimes the condition heals without any intervention, and other times it requires treatment or will become permanent.

Then, there is throat cancer, which needs immediate medical and surgical attention, and is the reason why a long-standing change in voice must be checked by the ENT specialist urgently.

Some tips to help prevent the loss of your voice when singing include:

Warm-up your voice before any serious singing; cool down your voice after singing; avoid coughing as coughing can injure your vocal cords; don't drink cold or ice water when you are about to sing. This tightens the muscles around the vocal cords and makes you strain the cords to sing; don't drink tea or coffee before singing. They're dehydrating and that's not good while singing; don't yell to be heard. You'll strain the vocal cords; avoid straining to make high notes while singing; use a microphone while singing where possible.

The stress of projecting your own voice in a crowded room can damage your voice; don't whisper when you've lost your voice. You're trying to use the already inflamed vocal cords. Rest them completely. Write messages. Drink plenty room temperature fluids; and don't smoke. Smoking damages a singer's voice.

I hope the info helps Tanisse, but please go and get your throat properly checked by an ENT specialist.


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