Protect your voice and maintain vocal health with these tips.

Protect your voice and maintain vocal health with these tips.

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Experiencing voice loss, or hoarseness, can be a cause for concern. During the autumn and winter seasonal changes, an increasing number of individuals seek medical attention due to acute hoarseness or sudden voice loss. Medical professionals generally advise patients to prioritise rest, stay hydrated by drinking ample water, minimise talking during voice loss, and appropriately use medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs to expedite voice recovery.

Causes of voice loss

Voice loss is typically categorised as either acute or chronic. Dr. Lip-Yen Lee, an otolaryngology specialist, explains that acute hoarseness and severe voice loss are usually caused by upper respiratory tract infections, such as viral infections, which can lead to inflammation of the throat, larynx, or vocal cords, resulting in vocal cord swelling. Patients will experience symptoms such as hoarseness and voice loss, greatly affecting their daily life. The symptom of hoarseness can usually resolve within one week, but severe voice loss may take 2 to 3 weeks to fully recover and regain one's normal vocal range.

Chronic hoarseness is mostly related to improper or excessive use of one's voice over a long period, which can lead to the development of nodules and polyps on the vocal cords. Teachers, salespersons, waiters, or those who love to sing, who use their voice frequently, are all at high risk for chronic hoarseness.

What to do when one suffers from voice loss

There are many quick fixes for vocal cord inflammation, such as drinking plenty of water to keep the vocal cords moist. Dr. Lee pointed out that the vocal cords are located in the airway, and under normal circumstances, it is difficult for food or throat lozenges to directly affect the vocal cords. While throat lozenges can relieve discomfort, like a sore throat, they may not be effective for hoarseness or voice loss.

When dealing with hoarseness, deliberately speaking softly or clearing your throat does not help with recovery. Whispering, in fact, causes further tension in the vocal cords and increases the risk of re-injury.


How to regain one's voice

If a patient suffers from inflammation of the throat or vocal cords, doctors usually prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to help improve the condition and may also recommend a short course of steroid therapy. If hoarseness persists, patients should drink plenty of water to keep the throat moist and the vocal cords rehydrated, speeding up recovery. It is not advisable to eat spicy and other irritating foods, so as not to aggravate the inflammation. At the same time, speaking should be minimised to allow the vocal cords more rest. If speaking is necessary, it is recommended to speak in a flat voice, pause more frequently, and drink more water. Finally, it should be noted that persistent hoarseness can also be a symptom of laryngeal cancer. If the hoarseness lasts for over 4 weeks, one should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Tips for preserving vocal health

Individuals should prioritise the well-being of their voice and throat in their daily lives. The key lies in controlling the volume of one's voice and refraining from speaking loudly. If working in a noisy environment, it is advisable to utilise auxiliary tools like microphones, speakers, or approach others at a normal volume to avoid straining the vocal cords. Individuals who extensively rely on their voice, such as teachers or salespersons, should take short breaks every 15 minutes during prolonged speaking sessions and hydrate their vocal cords with warm water. Reducing the consumption of coffee, tea, and alcohol is recommended as these beverages tend to dry out the throat. Quitting smoking is the best course of action, as tobacco can harm the throat and vocal cords. Sweetened foods are known to induce phlegm and impact vocal cord health, so it is wise to minimise their intake, particularly for those who frequently experience vocal cord problems and hoarseness.

Neglecting vocal cord care and overusing them can lead to strain and inflammation. Below are some simple tips to safeguard your vocal cords:

  • Avoid speaking too rapidly or loudly.
  • Take frequent pauses while speaking and aim for a slower pace.
  • Refrain from whispering excessively or frequently clearing your throat, as these habits can damage the vocal cords through misuse.
  • If you engage in prolonged speaking at work, make it a habit to take a break every 15 minutes and drink water to maintain vocal cord moisture.
  • Minimise the consumption of spicy foods.
  • Individuals with acid reflux should avoid overeating and reduce their intake of fatty foods and chocolate.
  • Steer clear of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Sudden voice loss can significantly impact daily life and may indicate more serious conditions such as polyps or tumors. It is important not to overlook such symptoms and seek prompt medical attention.

1. Dr. Kin Ming Chan - Voice-regaining injection for sore throat is effective for at most a day
2. [The art of speaking] Speak loudly tends to injure vocal cords, severe swelling of the throat causes inflammation and scarring and even permanent hoarseness
3. Excessive or incorrect use of vocal cords can cause vocal cord lesions

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