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Even if you do everything right, you may still suffer a vocal problem at some point. Below, I offer information and advice for what you should and shouldn’t do if you run into trouble.


Some Warning Signs for Vocal Trouble:

  • hoarseness or breathiness
  • complete voice loss
  • feeling like it takes more effort to speak or sing
  • vocal fatigue (the voice tiring out quicker than usual)
  • the sound of the voice has changed considerably (e.g. volume, quality, pitch)


What Not To Do

If you experience serious problems with your voice, don’t go out and use your voice for hours and hours with no breaks. I don’t care if you are a teacher, or you have a tour. You don’t run a marathon on a broken leg, so why would you try to sing or speak for hours on an injured voice? Taking some time off when you first face a vocal problem can avoid longer healing times and loss of work later on.

Also, avoid speaking or singing loudly. Yelling and screaming are absolute no-no’s. You don’t try to lift a car with broken arms, so… you get the idea.

Don’t over do it, but don’t necessarily stop using the voice altogether.


What TO Do: The first 3 days

1. Proceed with Caution.

2. Partial or Complete Vocal Rest.

3. Make an appointment to see a vocologist immediately (in the case of a sudden change), or after 3 days if symptoms don’t resolve on their own.

If you are experiencing some predictable vocal trouble (e.g. you got sick, and now your voice is a bit rough), or the trouble has come on somewhat gradually, it may be okay to continue to use your voice gently. PROCEED WITH CAUTION. While you are recovering, be smart and listen to the cues your body is giving you. Try to stop before you hear the sound get worse, or you feel your effort level increase. When your voice is tired, rest it.

Vocal rest can occur throughout the day. Take 5-30 minute rests whenever possible. Gentle warm-ups and cool down exercises can also help, if you already know how to do them freely, or you have someone teaching you how to do them with vocal ease.  Again however, be mindful and only go as far as the voice will easily take you.

If voice trouble occurs abruptly, there may be a vocal hemorrhage. This is one of the few instances when complete vocal rest is mandatory in order to recover fully. If you suspect a vocal hemorrhage, consider your case a vocal emergency, and get in to see a vocologist immediately. In the meantime, write down what you want to say to people, and avoid talking, singing, coughing, grunting, and all other noises involving the vocal cords.

In most other cases, the voice will get steadily better on its own after a few days. However, if the problem persists beyond 3 days, find a vocologist and set-up and appointment to prevent any further issues. If the problem persists for over a month, you may consider your case to be a chronic condition, and an appointment is overdue.


Vocal Emergencies and Chronic Conditions

Vocal emergencies include any abrupt hoarseness or voice loss (see above), total voice loss lasting past 3 days, or any vocal trouble that is significantly impacting your life or career. In these cases, and for any chronic conditions, get expert help from a vocologist. Not only can a good vocologist help you with solutions, there may also be an underlying physical or neurological condition that the voice is responding to. Click here (link coming) to read my guide to finding expert voice care.


Troubleshooting Issues

You can avoid vocal trouble in a lot of ways, but there are also some conditions and circumstances you cannot predict. Read my Top 3 Tips for Vocal Maintenance to troubleshoot as best you can. Better yet, take some lessons to set you up with the skills and knowledge you need to avoid long term trouble and to maximize the voice you have.


© 2018 Joanna Chapman-Smith

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