I am 59 years old and have been singing my entire life both professionally and recently semi professionally. I had a 5 year period of time where I rarely sang at all then began to get back into it. I struggled for a while with my upper range then began to see improvement but recently over the past five years have been noticing my voice breaking when I sing in any key and when I get to my upper range it gets raspy and have lost 2 full notes. I no longer have a clear sound in my falsetto either. After having issues with a lot of phlegm to the point I would begin coughing in the middle of speaking or singing on a frequent level, I saw an ENT who scoped me and found some discoloring of the vocal chords and recommended a special diet which I stayed on fairly well for about 5 months. It seemed to help a bit but I still had issues with my upper range. I am now loosing more range and the phlegm is coming back and my voice is breaking again. I have not been staying close to the diet but I don't eat an unhealthy diet. My low and middle range seems to be in control for the most part when I go out to sing in a club or practice, but when I explore my upper range G and above, it goes breathy disappears. What do you suggest?
Melissa Kim M.S., CCC-SLP replies...
If your otolaryngologist described "discoloring" of the vocal folds and recommended specific dietary modifications, I would assume that he or she was suspecting acid reflux to be playing a role in your vocal symptoms. If your symptoms have persisted despite adequate treatment of the acid reflux (which your otolaryngologist or a gastroenterologist would determine), you may be experiencing vocal changes related to muscle tension dysphonia.
When a singer or speaker encounters an undesirable vocal sound that is the result of any underlying irritation to the larynx (such as acid reflux), the first impulse is to compensate by unknowingly changing the way in which one is singing or speaking. These functionally abusive vocal behaviors, also referred to as muscle tension dysphonia, can exacerbate original vocal symptoms. The treatment for this condition is voice therapy with a speech pathologist who specializes in the treatment of voice disorders; ask your otolaryngologist for a referral.