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Common Problems That Affect Your Singing Voice

September 17, 2018

Nashville has been hailed Music City for decades. Over the years the impact the city has had on music culture grows stronger and rivals other cities like NYC and London as a musical influencer. Prominent players from different genres have used Music City as the backdrop to produce and record some of the world's greatest albums. It's no wonder that thousands of singers move to Tennessee's state capital in hopes of succeeding in the industry.

As a singer, your vocal cords are your livelihood. Taking care of them is critical to your success. Lesions or inflammation causes issues and can change your ability to hit notes and pitch. Understanding the common issues singers face and how to care for your throat can help maintain a long and healthy musical career.

How Your Vocal Cords Produce Sound

Three components give you the opportunity to make sounds: the lungs, vocal cords, and your throat, nose, and mouth. Each serves a different purpose in projecting noise that turns into either speaking or singing.

The lungs are the power source. As we inhale, the diaphragm lowers, and your ribs expand as your lungs begin to fill. During the exhalation, the entire process is reversed, and the airstream moves out and over the trachea fueling the vibrations of your vocal cords. So, it's the exhalation that produces sound rather than the inhalation. The steadier and stronger the airstream, the clearer the sound you produce.

Your larynx is also known as your voice box. The vocal cords open when you breathe and close when you swallow to reduce the risk of choking. The airstream we just mentioned during the exhalation will pass between the vocal cords and cause them to vibrate. These vibrations can be anywhere from 100 to 1000 cycles per second. The faster the waves, the higher your voice sounds. Slower vibrations mean lower sounds.

Without the nose, throat, and mouth, these vibrations would sound like buzzing. Air passing through this network resonates giving your voice a distinct sound. It's also how you can tell when someone "sounds sick."

Throat Issues that Affect Your Singing Voice

There are many ways in which your voice can be affected. For singers, it's essential to keep vocal cords healthy and robust. It's an apparatus that plays into your livelihood. As trusted ear, nose, and throat specialists, we work with musicians who need specialized attention to achieve the appropriate sound and quality.


If you need the mouth and nose to help you produce sound, suffering from sinusitis will impact the quality of your singing voice. Sinusitis is a common issue where the sinus cavities become inflamed and swollen. The condition can present itself when the body is infected by bacteria or a virus.

Vocal Cord Nodules

A standard issue for singers is nodules. Nodules are almost callus-like, sit on the vocal cords and are a result of too much use. They often populate in pairs, one on each of the vocal cords and cause a lot of irritation.

Vocal Cord Polyps

Polyps develop singularly on the vocal cords and are made from a growth of soft tissue. Similarly, they emerge as a result of overuse and plague many singers. Some individuals who spend time working with harsh chemicals can also develop polyps.


Laryngitis is another form of inflammation that affects the singing voice and directly affects the vocal cords. Swollen vocal cords will vibrate differently causing a change to the sounds you usually produce. If the inflammation is severe enough, you can lose the ability to make noises altogether. Laryngitis can be caused by:

  • Viral infection
  • Acid reflux
  • Allergies
  • Vocal Abuse
  • Exposure to cigarettes or alcohol


Treatments for Vocal Cords

Fortunately, there a couple of options to help heal the problems with your vocal cords.

Rest and Relaxation

When you're dealing with sinus issues or laryngitis, medication and rest will reduce inflammation. If appropriate, your ENT will recommend the use of a nasal spray. In most instances, drinking plenty of fluids and sleeping at least 8 hours a night will improve symptoms. Rarely will antibiotics be required for a successful recovery.


The polyps and nodules can be removed surgically. It's a delicate procedure and should be performed by a throat specialist to ensure your singing voice isn't damaged. Resting the voice is usually the first step before introducing surgery. Spending time with a voice specialist who can help diagnose and treat voice disorders can help singers learn proper techniques for using their vocal cords to reduce strain and limit the chances of nodules and polyps from forming.

For more information on how you can protect your singing voice, contact OAT to set up an appointment.

Topics: Vocal Cords