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Voice Care FAQ

There are many factors that contribute to the overall quality and function of the voice system. Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to voice function.

Can I speak for long periods or sing when I am hoarse or have laryngitis?

It is not a good idea to speak for long periods of time or sing when you are hoarse or have laryngitis. The best thing to do if you have an upper respiratory infection with laryngitis is to rest your voice until the swelling goes away. When you must speak, speak easily for only as long as necessary and without force. Do not project your voice, call out or yell when you have laryngitis. If your laryngitis persists after your upper respiratory infection has gone away, see a laryngologist in order to ensure that there is nothing wrong with your voice.

What is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)—also known as throat reflux—and how could it cause voice problems?

LPR is the type of reflux that occurs when refluxed material reaches the top of the esophagus (food tube) and coats the throat with acid. Few people experience heartburn with this type of reflux and generally the amounts of refluxed material is small. The delicate tissues of the throat and larynx do not have good defenses against the acidic content of reflux. The throat and larynx can swell and become irritated, which can result in voice problems.

How does drinking water help my voice?

Being appropriately hydrated helps your voice. The vibrating surfaces of the vocal folds are made of a soft, jelly-like substance called the superficial lamina propria. Loss of hydration can result in less vocal fold pliability and therefore voicing will require extra effort or strain.

How does smoking damage the voice?

Everything we breathe in passes through the larynx and over the vocal folds. Smoke contains airborne irritants that cause inflammation and over time change the consistency of the covers of the vocal folds. Changes that occur can include Reinke’s edema (a swelling/thickening of the vocal folds), leukoplakia (a thick white coating that generally occurs in patches and is considered precancerous), or cancer.

Is marijuana smoke as bad for your throat as cigarettes?

Yes, marijuana smoke also contains significant airborne irritants. In addition, marijuana burns hotter and drier than cigarettes which can amplify vocal fold/larynx irritation.

Is coffee and tea bad for my voice?

This will largely depend on whether reflux is a part of your picture (caffeine is a reflux trigger) and whether you drink enough caffeine to prompt a dehydration response in your body.

Is throat clearing bad for my voice?

Most people clear their throat in a way that squeezes and grinds the vocal folds against each other. This can result in increased irritation to the vocal folds and it can encourage swelling. If you must clear mucus from your throat, it is recommended to learn strategies for throat clearing that minimize the contact of the vocal folds in the process.

Is whispering bad for my voice?

We do not recommend whispering for people who are on voice rest. The reason for this is that the muscles of the larynx contract regardless of the fact that the vocal folds aren’t touching. In addition, the excessive air that passes over the vocal folds in whispering results in increased dryness of the larynx and vocal folds.

Source: Barbara M. Wilson Arboleda, M.S., CCC-SLP