Prevent vocal cord damage and protect your singing voice by drinking the right liquids

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How to Prevent Vocal Cord Damage and Protect Your Voice

If you're a professional singer, your voice is your instrument.

Professional singers put a great deal of strain on their voice, so it's imperative to take care of the vocal cords and avoid as much damage as possible. All professional singers have pre-show rituals. The members of Mumford and Sons inhale Palo Santo wood before their shows, it's no secret that Keith Richards has to have a pre-show Shepard's Pie while the members of Led Zeppelin preferred hot tea before their shows. To keep your voice sounding its best, there are certain foods and drinks you should avoid and some drinks you can integrate into your daily or pre-show routine to prevent vocal cord damage.

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Avoid Drinks That Can Harm Your Voice

There are a few drinks that singers should avoid to keep their voice clear and strong. Most of these beverages either dry out or irritate the vocal cords, or they increase the production of mucus. Keep in mind that very hot or very cold beverages can also negatively affect the sound and range of the voice.

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  1. 1
    Alcohol
    .
    Alcohol can dry out the throat and cause irritation. If you think of your vocal cords as the elastic type soft tissues they are, keeping them hydrated is very important (think of a dry elastic). Excessively drinking alcohol or drinking the night before a performance can dehydrate your vocal cords. Avoiding alcohol and sticking to water is the best choice for your vocal cords.
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  2. 2
    Coffee
    .
    If you sing, you've probably been told to avoid coffee. Although this has become controversial with many voice specialists outright denying the claim, coffee may tighten the muscles and restrict vocal range.
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  3. 3
    Milk
    .
    Dairy products can increase the production of mucus which affects the sound of the voice. Limit dairy products and milk, especially before a performance. If you must drink milk, follow up with plenty of water to keep your throat clear.
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  4. 4
    Ice cubes
    .
    A lot of people like to eat ice, especially to soothe a sore or dry throat. However, this can negatively affect the tone of your voice because of the extremely cold temperature, the ice can freeze your cords decreasing the cords ability to function properly.
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  5. 5
    Acidic fruit juice
    .
    These can increase the production of mucus in your throat.
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  6. 6
    Carbonated or aspartame-containing drinks
    .
    These can affect the sound of your voice and increase the amount of air in the stomach.
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  7. 7
    Hot chocolate can make your voice raspy
    .
    It generally causes more mucus production than normal seeing as it is a dairy product. It is advisable to avoid drinking milk, yogurt, cake and hot chocolate before a performance because these can clog up your vocal cords with mucus and affect the way you sound when singing. This can also change completely the way you speak and cause you to constantly clear your throat.
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  8. 8
    Drinking carbonated beverages before a performance is inadvisable, because of the caffeine, sugar and bubbles
    .
    Sugar acts as a food source for bacteria. Soda causes your stomach to accumulate air bubbles which can may cause spasm on your diaphragm. This is also known as your hiccup and can be disruptive to your singing.
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Warm drinks such as tea are acceptable up to an hour before a performance. You should avoid any diuretic substances. Refer to avoid any diuretic substances (caffeinated, alcoholic, tea) for further in-depth info.

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Avoid Bad Habits That Can Affect Your Singing Voice

You might notice that on some days, your voice sounds so clear and natural, but on other days, you have trouble hitting the right notes. To keep your voice sounding its best, here are 5 considerations:

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Don't Sleep With a Fan Blowing Directly On You

Avoid sleeping with the fan or air conditioner blowing directly on you, since this can dry out your throat. If possible, change the direction of the air flow so it circulates throughout the room. Consider a vaporizer or humidifier in your bedroom.

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Stop Screaming

Avoid yelling and screaming as much as possible. You should give your vocal cords a rest when your throat feels sore or dry, as well. If you have to scream in songs, control your voice and use a proper technique to avoid excessive strain.

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Avoid Stress and Sleep Deprivation

Due to schedules, homework, work assignments and other responsibilities, many people lack adequate amounts of sleep. This can negatively affect the sound of your voice. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night, and take as much time as you can to relax and reduce stress levels.

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Drinks That Can Help Your Voice

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    Honey and Warm Water
    .
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    Honey has a soothing effect on your vocal cords. Mix 1/2-tsp of honey in with a glass of warm water before you begin your performance. If you suffer from pollen-based allergies, using a local honey has the added benefit of helping build your tolerance to local pollens. As allergens can have an affect on your voice, any chance you have to avoid them would be to your benefit. Also, remember that sugar can sometimes coat your throat and have negative effects, so it's best to use a honey labeled "all natural", as some regular store brands have added sugars.
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  2. 2
    Less Acidic Pure Fruit Juices
    .
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    Drinking fresh, pure fruit juice, such as pineapple, grape and apple juices, help you maintain a high level of energy, and generally help your immune system. Do not drink overly acidic fruit juices such as orange and grapefruit any less than an hour before you're due to sing, as the citric acid can cause excess mucus to develop in the throat.
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  3. 3
    Baking Soda and Corn Syrup Solution
    .
    This solution is especially useful if an air-conditioner has dried out your throat. It involves using baking soda as a throat gargle. Mix together the following:
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    1. 1/2-tsp baking soda.
    2. 1/2-tsp salt.
    3. 1/2-tsp corn syrup with 6-oz of warm water.
    4. Gargle gently.
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Avoid Foods That Can Harm Your Voice

Like drinks, some foods can hurt or stress your vocal cords.

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    Cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products can create phlegm
    .
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  2. 2
    Excessive salt, oranges, lemons, grapes and pineapple are acidic and can dry out your throat.
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  3. 3
    Junk food and sweets.
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  4. 4
    Chocolate, ketchup, tomato products, fried foods, mustard, citrus, onions, peppermint and vinegar, are often heartburn triggers.
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Foods That Can Help Your Voice

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    Hard candy, licorice tea, herbal tea and water are all soothing for the throat.
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    Chicken, almonds, fish, vegetables, apples, eggs and rice.
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  3. 3
    Ginger and ginger tea
    .
    Salabat is a throat-soothing ginger drink that's common in the Philippines. You can also find ginger lozenges or simply chew a small piece of fresh ginger.
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What to Do If Hot Food Has Damaged Your Vocal Cords

If you've swallowed some hot food recently and now your throat is unbearable, it's possible that you've damaged your vocal cords. How can you fix this? Just follow these procedures:

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    Seek medical attention from a doctor
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    There are good medications that can be prescribed for your throat to heal faster when your vocal cords have been extensively damaged by hot food. See your doctor of a member of your healthcare team.
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  2. 2
    Drink a lot of water to soothe your vocal cords
    .
    Just as mentioned here earlier, water is the best lubricant for your vocal cords, and it will help you to heal faster. Drink lukewarm water, rather than cold or hot.
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Postnasal and Mucus-Related Issues

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Protect Vocal Cords from Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip creates an uncomfortable feeling that makes you want to constantly clear your throat. Because the feeling of the mucus in your throat is annoying and contains inflammatory substances, postnasal drip can also lead to cough attacks, which often get worse at night. In fact, postnasal drip is the most common cause of chronic cough. It also causes a hoarse feeling. These things will have an affect on your vocal cords, so visit your doctor and take any prescribed medications. If you are a professional who uses your voice regularly, such as a singer, a salesman or a teacher, you need to make sure that your medication will not worsen the health situation of your vocal cords. The treatment of postnasal drip depends on the problem.

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  1. 1
    Antibiotics
    .
    These are used to treat bacterial infections.If your doctor suspects an infection they may prescribe antibiotics. Follow your doctor's orders.
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  2. 2
    Decongestants
    .
    Postnasal drip can be eliminated or greatly reduced with the use of antihistamines and decongestants. Ask your pharmacist for suggestions.
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  3. 3
    Steroid medications and nasal sprays
    .
    These can also be effective for postnasal drip caused by allergies.
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  4. 4
    Sleep with your head elevated
    .
    Sleep in a recliner or use pillows to keep your head elevated enough to help prevent excessive mucus buildup and coughing attacks.
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  5. 5
    Increase humidity
    .
    Increasing the humidity of the air you breath can help keep the mucus moving. Use a vaporizer to add moisture to the air. Some people prefer a menthol additive to help open up their sinuses and encourage drainage.
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  6. 6
    Reduce allergens
    .
    Clean your house and vacuum frequently to reduce dust and other allergens. Getting your ducts cleaned and using a higher quality air filter on your furnace or air conditioner can greatly reduce airborne allergens.
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  7. 7
    Avoid singing
    .
    Avoid using your voice until the problem clears up. Irritated mucus membranes make it hard to sing certain notes and leads to rough-sounding vocals. Singing with inflamed vocal cords can also lead to vocal nodules.
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Fix a Damaged Singing Voice

Ailments such as the flu, cold or a cough can damage your singing voice, leaving it hoarse, sore and painful. There are ways to treat your voice so that you can sing normally again. Here are some ways to fix your damaged voice:

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  1. 1
    Drink a lot of water
    .
    Water acts as a lubricant to your vocal folds, making the thin vocal membrane vibrate easily when you sing. When your voice is hoarse, the vocal fold is dry and needs to be lubricated. Drinking a lot of water will solve this problem.
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  2. 2
    Inhale steam
    .
    Hot water has a way of soothing the vocal folds and making it very flexible for singing, especially when it includes a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil. This can act as a good remedy for the damaged vocal cord, as eucalyptus is also slippery and helps to lubricate the walls of the vocal membranes when they are dry. If your local gym has a steam room, take some time to sit and breath deeply.
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  3. 3
    Seek medical attention from a specialized doctor
    .
    Coughing can cause severe damage to your vocal cords if it is not treated properly in time. A medical doctor can assess the extent of the throat infection and prescribe the best medication to help your throat heal.
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  4. 4
    Avoid talking and singing until you feel better
    .
    When your voice is hoarse and painful, there must be inflammation in your throat that causes the pain. If you've already obtained medication from a specialist, you should not try to sing or talk while still on medication. You should give it time to heal, and wait for the inflammation to reduce before you start singing. You can use non-verbal cues to communicate rather than straining to speak, especially when you're suffering from voice loss.
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How to Protect Your Vocal Cords from Repeated Vomiting

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Repetitious vomiting due to health concerns (stomach virus, acid reflux, etc.) or misuse of the voice can likely damage vocal cords. Vomiting can irritate the lining of the esophagus. It forces stomach acid usually used to digest food into your voice box which can irritate your vocal cords. The effects can include reduced volume or pain while singing or speaking. Even worse, it may bring about the need for surgical voice repair. Seek treatment for any illnesses, eat healthy food, exercise regularly, drink a lot of water and avoid stress. Try soothing remedies such as warm herbal tea and inhaling steam to lubricate the throat.

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How to Improve Your Singing Voice

Most people have the ability to sing, but it requires a great deal of vocal cord control and a proper breathing technique. In addition to those things, taking care of the vocal cords to avoid damage is extremely important. Once you've been properly trained, here are some tips on getting ready for a performance.

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  1. 1
    Warm up
    .
    This is essential for damage prevention. Your vocal cords are muscles that require very good care. If you don't warm up before a performance, it can lead to a minor injury or worse. Just like athletes before a competition, warming up is necessary to prevent force on the muscles and ligaments which can lead to injuries and long-term issues. A 10-minute warm up routine can do the trick. However, it's always better to do more.
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  2. 2
    Never smoke
    .
    We all know the health dangers of smoking so if you're a singer, this is the biggest no-no! In smokers, the lungs weaken and breathing then becomes a problem. The ability to breathe correctly is one of the most important attributes a good singer possesses. To hit and hold a high note while singing, a singer must hold deep breaths. A smoker's lungs are likely to have a decreased capability of doing this. Not only does this affect the voice, but the performance as well. Cigarette smoking also dries up the vocal cords, making them swollen, irritated and even mucus build-up. How will a smoker perform well if there is a constant need to clear her/his throat in every performance? This means you need to quit smoking. The sooner you quit, the better it will be for your health and your singing voice. That's an easy choice to make.
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  3. 3
    Keep hydrated
    .
    Room temperature water is the best option. Drinking lots of water will help wash away toxins in the throat and help the throat and body feel refreshed. It also helps keep the vocal cords lubricated, resulting in a better singing voice. Also, if the body is well hydrated, the vocal cords will stay completely lubricated, in turn making the singing voice better. Staying hydrated also helps you feel more energized.
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  4. 4
    Singing at the top of your lungs or singing for a long time should be avoided
    .
    Doing this could strain your voice, which can then lead to minor or long-term injuries. Don't ever push your vocal cords to their limit, as it is better to be safe than sorry.
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  5. 5
    Make sure to take breaks when practicing or performing
    .
    An hour or even a couple of hours break will do your vocal cords a great favor. It gives them a chance to rest.
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  6. 6
    Exercise regularly
    .
    Swimming and long walks are great ways to help improve your singing voice and overall well-being. Practice breathing techniques while you swim, as this will help strengthen your diaphragm and improve your breathing. Also, if you're healthy and in shape, you'll typically have a better disposition.
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  7. 7
    Get enough sleep
    .
    Recharging energy that has been lost during the day is very important. A good amount of sleep is between 7-8 hours. Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleeping. Avoid watching TV, leaving lights on and listening to loud music. Don't exercise right before bed, as it can energize your body.
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  8. 8
    Wrap warm towels around your neck
    .
    Do this a few minutes before you warm up or perform. It will soothe the vocal cords, especially when you're feeling a bit tired or have throat issues.
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Pros and Cons of Apple Cider Vinegar for Vocal Cords

Some people opt to treat vocal cord disorders with natural homemade remedies. One of the traditional medicines for healing vocal cord disorders is apple cider vinegar. Proponents claim that apple cider vinegar can help lessen vocal cord issues such as a dry and raspy throat, hoarseness, etc. However, there's no scientific data that apple cider vinegar can actually help reduce inflammation or infection in the throat. Although this case hasn't been proven effective scientifically, a lot of people have testified in favor of it, saying that it helped them soothe vocal cord inflammation.

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Apple cider vinegar mainly contains three active ingredients: Malic acid, pectin, and acetic acid -- the last is the most active ingredient among the three, which is highly acidic and may result in serious vocal cord disorder. Despite that, the active ingredients mainly kill bacteria in the throat when taken properly. Below are the pros and cons of apple cider vinegar for vocal cords.

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Pros

  • It can soothe a sore throat.
  • It can sanitize your mouth from bacteria buildup.
  • It can reduce phlegm and mucus buildup.
  • It contains vitamin C, which is known to support the immune system.

Cons

  • It contains acidic ingredients and may result to serious vocal cord issues.
  • It may burn or irritate your throat if not diluted or taken properly.

If you want to try apple cider vinegar, take 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and mix with 4 ounces of warm water in a cup. Drink it once an hour for seven consecutive hours. Alternatively or you can gargle apple cider vinegar with water once an hour.

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How to Protect Your Voice Before Singing

Whether your voice is your livelihood or singing is your passion, protecting your voice before you sing is critical to your longevity in the singing world. Many singers have abused their voices and paid dearly, having to have operations to fix their vocal cords. (Sadly, often with limited success.) So how do you prevent vocal cord damage?

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  1. 1
    Warm up
    .
    Yes you heard it a million times from your voice teacher, and it is the number one thing you can do. Your voice is like any other muscle, when you are young you can get away with not warming up, but as you get older you need to stretch your vocal cords, just like you stretch your muscles. Many singers think it's beneath them, or they are embarrassed. If you don't want people to see or hear you warm up your voice, find a washroom or another private place to go through your vocal exercises. Remember that embarrassment will pass, but vocal cord damage is often irreversible. Consider your priorities.
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  2. 2
    Look through the recommended drinks listed earlier in this wiki and choose one that works for you
    .
    Be deliberate in your evaluation. Try each drink before you sing, then note how your voice feels afterward. Evaluate both tonality and soreness. Ask yourself how many songs you feel your voice could stand. Write these evaluations down. Repeat each drink test three times before looking at your overall data to see which drink best prepares you to sing.
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  3. 3
    If you sing professionally or speak a lot consider hiring a voice coach
    .
    These specialists can teach you preventative techniques.
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What Causes the Sides of Your Throat to Hurt When You Sing?

If your throat hurts when you sing, it's possible that you suffer from vocal masses. These can be vocal cysts, polyps or nodules. Vocal masses occur or can develop due to abusive use of your voice. All of these conditions require medical consultation.

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  1. 1
    A vocal cyst, also known as vocal fold cyst, is a fluid collection that forms inside the vocal cord
    .
    Vocal cords can be injured through voice misuse or overuse and poor vocal health.
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  2. 2
    Vocal polyps, or vocal fold polyps, are fluid-filled collections that form on the edge of the vocal cords due to them being under a lot of stress
    .
    Vocal folds are actually folds of tissue with a delicate lining on the outside. By constantly using our voices, the vocal folds vibrate several hundred times per second. Singing too much, talking too loud or using incorrect methods while singing can cause vocal trauma, and that can trigger the vocal folds to swell.
    Polyp.jpg
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  3. 3
    Vocal nodules are basically calluses that form on the vocal folds as a result of vocal trauma without periods of rest
    .
    Just like vocal polyps, speaking or singing incorrectly for prolonged periods of time can cause swelling to the vocal fold lining.
    Nodules.jpg
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Common symptoms that indicate you have vocal masses may include:

  1. 1
    Hoarseness
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  2. 2
    Neck pain and throat discomfort, pain or tightness
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  3. 3
    Inability to hit all notes easily and quietly
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  4. 4
    Inability to hold a pitch steady
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Hoarseness

Hoarseness is a change in the voice caused by a variety of conditions. There are many factors that cause hoarseness, so read on to find out more.

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What Causes Hoarseness?

Hoarseness is usually caused by overuse of the voice, but the following are also contributors:

  • Allergies
  • Smoking
  • Thyroid issues
  • Trauma to your vocal cords or larynx
  • Cyst or polyps and even benign vocal cord nodules
  • Parkinson's disease or stroke (These are neurological conditions)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux or GERD
  • Inhalation of respiratory tract irritants

Signs of Hoarseness and How It's Diagnosed

Hoarseness is generally marked by a harsh, raspy-sounding voice. Healthcare professionals will ask questions about your symptoms, and sometimes insert a fiber optic Diagnosed for this problem should be taken care by the professional. Doctors will ask some questions that focus on your head and your neck. There are sometimes that a fiber optic scope into the throat to view the vocal cords. If the hoarseness persists for more than two or three weeks, it's recommended that you visit an otolaryngologist.

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How Is Hoarseness Treated?

Treatment of hoarseness depends on the cause.

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    Voice rest
    .
    This is highly recommended to avoid further injury or irritation to your vocal chords.
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  2. 2
    Surgery
    .
    This is usually reserved for patients with polyps, benign nodules, cancer or vocal cord trauma.
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  3. 3
    Humidified air and cough suppressants
    .
    These work well for hoarseness due to an upper respiratory infection.
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  4. 4
    Antibiotics
    .
    These might be necessary in some cases of infection.
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Prevent Hoarseness

  1. 1
    Avoid excessive use of your voice
    .
    If you need to use an excessive volume of voice, it is best that you use a microphone.
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  2. 2
    Voice modification
    .
    Remember that it's not always necessary to use an excessive amount of voice to get the right tone or note. Work with a voice therapist to learn proper voice modulation.
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  3. 3
    Avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks.
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  4. 4
    Smoking cessation is also good to avoid developing cancer of the larynx.
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Tips Tricks and Warnings

  • Drink hot tea after singing to soothe your voice.
  • While cough lozenges may be soothing, be mindful of using them before performing. The lozenge may numb your vocal cords, and all the while you will be running your vocal cords as you strain them thinking that your voice is fine. Instead, the best thing to do is just give your voice a rest.
  • The best time to eat is an hour or two before you sing. Balanced, light meals that are high in protein but low in density are good choices. If your stomach is full during a performance then it will hinder your diaphragm movement, making it hard to take breaths where necessary.
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Questions and Answers on Protecting your Singing Voice

When the voice recovers from laryngitis, why do the lower notes come back first and the higher notes much later?

Laryngitis occurs when there is an inflammation of the larynx. This leads to husky voice, and even worse, no voice at all. Laryngitis may be brought about by many factors, some of which are the following:

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  • Flu or common colds. The infection that comes with the flu or common colds cause it to reach the larynx.
  • Acid reflux. This is a condition in which the acid from the stomach goes back up into the esophagus and then at the back of the mouth. It is most often caused by stress or rushed eating. The acid is harsh enough to cause inflammation of the larynx.
  • Allergies. This may be brought about by intake of certain foods as well as a side effect of certain medications.
  • Voice overuse, such as in the case of teachers and trainers. They use their voices the whole day and they have to talk loudly all the time. This makes the vocal folds extremely irritated because they are extremely stretched and pulled when the breath is being produced together with the sounds. Also, the muscles of the vocal cords become stiff because of over-activity.
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Upon recovery from laryngitis, what one normally notices is that the lower notes come back first. This is because lower notes tend to require less air pressure to get produced, as compared to higher notes. When the inflammation has just recovered, it is not ideal for the vocal folds to be applied with too much pressure from the breath in order to produce higher tones.

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This is because the lower notes in your voice do not require much work from the vocals than the higher notes do. In order to hit a higher note you will need more effort in order to perform this vs the lower notes which do not require a lot of effort.

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See more questions like this: Just wanted to know to improve my vocal high notes voice

How does vitamin C affect the vocal cords?

Vitamin C may be rather disturbing to the vocal cords because of the acid it contains. Acid may cause disturbance to the voice, which explains why your voice may sound different if you are experiencing acid reflux. Acid is harsh and may lead to dryness of the vocal folds, leaving it irritated when it stretches during speech. On the other hand, it is good to take vitamin C because it can help you fight viruses and infection such as cough and cold. A cough may be very damaging to the vocal cords because of the constant need to cough off the phlegm. In other words, you would not want to ingest food which have very strong vitamin C content because it might irritate your vocal cords as it passes through. However, you would want to be able to absorb enough vitamin C so that your body is protected from infection. Therefore, you need to select food like an apple which is rich in vitamin C, but is in a form where the vitamin is wrapped with fiber so that it would not be irritating as it passes through your throat. The juice from oranges, for example, glides through the throat directly and this can be irritating.

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See more questions like this: How does hot water, tea or coffee affect your singing voice

Why you should not sing and be sick at the same time?

Stress and fatigue can immediately have an effect on your vocal cords. When you sing while you are sick, there is more likelihood that you will put pressure on your vocal cords, mainly because you exert more effort in producing breath in order to produce sounds. Poor blood circulation, which usually comes with any type of sickness, also leaves the vocal cord muscles more stiff. Therefore, if you engage in traumatic activities such as singing, these stiff muscles would not be opening and closing as normal, therefore increasing the likelihood of irritation.

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Once you are not feeling well and you are mostly suffering some illness, then it is best for you to take a rest and don't push yourself. You should not sing because once you did, you might overuse your voice by pushing it to its limit to produce your natural notes. But, you do know that your voice is not so good since you are sick and when trying to push it on the long run, you could actually damage it by exerting too much to produce the quality of your voice.

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See more questions like this: How much can a singer sing before they reach their limit

What happens if you lose your voice and still eat/drink dairy products?

I lost my voice and was told by the music director in the play at my school, not to eat or drink dairy products and to drink tea with honey and buy the big jugs of water to help it and I was wondering what would happen!

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Throat began to get sore and hurts when I sing my normal high notes?

I am 14 and have a talent show coming up me and my friend has been practicing. My throat is starting to hurt every time I sing and when I try to get to the high notes like I usually do it hurts. I have no ginger. Performance is in 2 weeks help. It hurts every time I sing and I don't ever eat dairy or have cokes

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See more questions like this: How can I keep a clear singing voice and maintain my tone and note quality until evening

Would working indoors at a gas station hurt my voice?

It's not in a super busy location, but it's along a main road. I can get my own place and get a better job later.

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How can I be a sprinter as well as a singer at the same time?

My problem is that I'm a 100m sprinter. so I feel that excessive breathing during training affects my voice and makes it harsh. Is there any solution to it?

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Categories : Voice Lessons & Tips

Recent edits by: Krishna gurung, Shelley, aqaabrub

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