There are dozens of jobs that rely on your voice to be effective. They include teachers, instructors, trainers, singers, and public speakers. Overuse and abuse of your voice can put your job in jeopardy.
76 percent of those with vocal issues worry about the future of their careers.
Vocal cord abuse is a real condition that causes serious disorders. These conditions can change your life, especially when your job depends on your voice. It’s important to learn how to treat your voice well and prevent vocal cord abuse.
What does vocal cord abuse consist of? What are the symptoms? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this problem.
What is Vocal Cord Abuse?
There’s a difference between vocal cord abuse and misuse.
Vocal misuse is when you improperly use your voice. That includes yelling, speaking loudly, or speaking at an unnaturally low or high pitch.
Vocal abuse includes behaviors that injure the vocal folds. These include smoking, screaming, inhaling irritants, and excess coughing or throat clearing.
As you can see, there’s some overlap between misuse and abuse. Both have similar symptoms and can lead to a variety of vocal cord disorders.
People in careers that encourage misuse or abuse of their vocal cords are at higher risk of developing a problem.
Symptoms of Vocal Cord Abuse
It’s common for the symptoms of vocal cord abuse to go unnoticed.
Many of these symptoms are similar to having a cold or cough. Some come and go whereas others are more persistent. Here are the ten most common vocal cord abuse symptoms:
- Neck pain
- Pain in ears
- Body and voice fatigue
- Feeling a lump in your throat
- Issues changing pitch
- Loss of voice
- Voice sounds breathy
- Voice sounds hoarse
- A constant need to cough
- Development of vocal cord disorders
You may notice that some of these symptoms appear after a long day of vocal work. If you rest for a couple of days and the symptoms disappear, you’ve likely misused your vocal cords.
But, if the symptoms persist for days, weeks, or longer, you should see a throat specialist and doctor. Vocal cord abuse can lead to disorders that require more than rest to treat.
Disorders of Vocal Abuse
If you’re still experiencing hoarseness and other symptoms after two weeks, see your physician.
Your doctor will perform an exam on your throat. Ideally, they’ll refer you to an otolaryngologist who specializes in throat disorders. The specialist will assess your throat, vocal folds, and your voice.
Here are some of the vocal abuse disorders possible.
Vocal Cord Nodules
These are the most common side effects of vocal abuse. A nodule is a noncancerous growth that emerges on the vocal cords.
This disorder is especially common among singers. They often appear in pairs on either side of the folds where they experience the most pressure.
The symptoms of nodules include hoarseness, tightness, breathiness, and an involuntarily low pitch.
Vocal Cord Polyps
Another common vocal disorder is Reinke’s edema, also known as polyps. At first, polyps might be mistaken for nodules, but they’re quite different. Instead of appearing as a callous, a polyp looks like a blister.
This disorder will make you feel like you have blisters in your throat. The other symptoms are the same as those for nodules, which is why finding a diagnosis between the two can be tricky.
Polyps are commonly seen in the throats of long-term smokers and those with hyperthyroidism.
We often think of laryngitis as a viral or bacterial infection. After a course of medications, it goes away.
However, the abuse of the vocal cords can also cause laryngitis. The misuse causes the vocal folds to swell and rub against each other.
The symptoms of someone with laryngitis include a raspy, hoarse, and breathy voice.
This disorder is less common than the other three mentioned above. Usually, contact ulcers develop when the vocal folds are aggressively pushed together. These people tend to use too much force when they speak, perhaps shouting or yelling often.
Like ulcers in other parts of the body, vocal contact ulcers appear like sores. They appear near the larynx cartilage and can be painful.
Besides pain while speaking, you may experience general body fatigue. Long bouts of talking can leave your neck and voice tired and strained.
How to Treat Vocal Abuse Disorders
The first step to healing your voice is getting an accurate diagnosis. Then, accurate treatment can follow.
For most of the disorders associated with vocal abuse, speech therapy is recommended. The specialists will work with your physician to find a treatment plan that works for you.
Then, the job of your speech therapist is to retrain your vocal cords.
The way you were using your vocal cords before wasn’t sustainable or healthy. You must learn about the functions of your voice and how to capitalize on your strengths.
The goal of your speech therapist is to get your voice to perform optimally again. Often, speech therapy is successful and patients go on to enjoy their vocal careers.
Are You Experiencing Symptoms of Vocal Cord Abuse?
If you read the symptoms above and noticed you suffer from one or many, you might have a vocal cord disorder. Or, you could be in the early stages of vocal cord abuse.
You must alter the bad habits your vocal cords have formed.
This could mean seeing a speech therapist before a disorder develops or booking a consultation to discuss your symptoms. The speech therapist may refer you to a medical professional for an official diagnosis.
Remember, you only get one voice. Save yours and book your free consultation today!