Your vocal cords are just one of the many parts of the vocal tract that help you produce a beautiful singing voice. As a trusted ear, nose, and throat specialist, Dr. Rafii can assess your entire voice system to help determine the cause of singing voice issues. Below, we’ll review common issues that can affect your singing voice, and how they are treated. Keep in mind that these are only a selection of the more common issues–there are many other possibilities, so if you are having an issue with your singing voice, it’s important to see a laryngologist for a Comprehensive Voice Evaluation to help determine the underlying cause.
Your sinus and nasal passages serve as a resonating chamber for your voice, helping to produce a rich and full sound. Clear nasal airflow is also necessary for production of certain consonant sounds. Sinus and allergy issues can create nasal congestion and block your sinus cavities, giving the voice a more “nasal” quality. Postnasal drip can also irritate the throat and vocal cords, causing throat clearing and coughing. Allergies can also directly affect the vocal cords, causing them to swell and affecting the quality of the voice.
Treatment may include nasal sprays and salt water rinses, allergy medications, antibiotics if infection is present, and allergy testing and treatment. Occasionally, surgery may be recommended to correct anatomic issues inside the nose and sinuses.
A frequent cause of voice issues in singers is vocal cord nodules, also known in lay terms as “nodes”. Vocal cord nodules are similar to calluses, which form on the vibrating surface of the vocal cords as a result of voice overuse or abuse. Nodules always occur in pairs, one on each vocal cord, and impair the normal and healthy vibration of the vocal cords. Nodules can cause hoarseness, vocal fatigue, loss of range, and increased vocal effort.
Vocal cord nodules are a commonly feared diagnosis of many singers, but there is good news–the vast majority of vocal cord nodules can go away WITHOUT SURGERY. Usually a combination of temporary voice rest or reduction of voice use along with voice therapy with a qualified speech language pathologist (voice therapist) can successfully resolve nodules.
Similar to nodules, vocal cord polyps and cysts usually develop as a result of voice overuse or abuse. Unlike nodules, they usually affect only one of the vocal cords. Polyps are often caused by a small hemorrhage into the vocal cord from a ruptured blood vessel, whereas cysts usually develop as a result of a plugged mucus gland. These growths impair the ability of the vocal cords to fully close when producing sound and can impair the normal healthy vibration of the vocal cords.
Treatment for vocal cord polyps and cysts depends on their size and shape. Smaller ones may be successfully treated with voice therapy, but larger ones may require surgical removal.
Laryngitis is a general term that simply means inflammation of the voice box (including the vocal cords). Regardless of the cause, the inflammation from laryngitis affects the vibration of the vocal cords and thus can impair the singing voice. If the inflammation is severe enough, even your speaking voice can be affected. Common causes of laryngitis include:
There are many other medical issues that can have a direct or indirect impact on the singing voice. That’s why it’s so important to trust your voice to a true expert in voice care. During your comprehensive voice evaluation, Dr. Rafii will evaluate the entire vocal system to ensure that the cause of your singing voice issue is properly diagnosed, and will implement a treatment plan that is not only effective, but works for your and your unique needs.
If you’re interested in a comprehensive voice evaluation, contact Dr. Rafii at 323.433.7744 to schedule a consultation.