Friday, April 11, 2014

Professional Singer/Vocal Teacher Experiencing Intermittent Vocal Loss

I am a professional singer and vocal teacher. I am having vocal problems with separation of tones when singing and it is getting worse. I vocalize students, but I don't sing for any occasion anymore, though I want to. I have had a beautiful soprano voice all my life. I am nearly 68 now and a very young person for my age. I am also a composer with many songs I want to record. I had a scope done years ago when I first started having these loss of tones, but I was singing then a lot and it seemed to clear up and my voice was strong. I am now not using it except to show students how to vocalize has made it weak. I have quite a bit of sinus drainage, which is also a culprit, I am sure. I have had bronchitis and laryngitis many times and afterwards it seems I have many months before I can sing again. I want an ENT who works with these problems and I want to know if the problems can be corrected. I forgot to mention that my vibrato is wobbly at times and then it sounds normal..... I need education from a doctor who has seen these vocal symptoms in patients and can give me the correct advice/ therapy I need and if I should not sing now. I so want to sing again... Thank you. Washington, DC.

Melissa Bidlack, MM, MS, CCC-SLP replies...

I imagine you must be frustrated with these vocal changes. Without having visualized your vocal folds, it is difficult to say what might be causing these changes. As all of us age, our voices change because our vocal folds thin out and do not move as efficiently as when we were young. Also, mucus, as you mentioned, can affect the quality of a person's tone and may sometimes be associated with vocal fold swelling. Furthermore, it is also possible for the laryngeal muscles to develop compensatory habits that change the way people produce voice. The best advice I can give you is to see a laryngologist, an otolaryngologist who specializes in voice disorders, who will visualize your vocal folds in a procedure called "stroboscopy" to determine the cause of your vocal changes. If you are interested in evaluation with a laryngologist at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center at GBMC, you may make an appointment by calling (443) 849-2087. You can also search for a laryngologist at

All the best to you!

Voice Loss

I had some sinus drainage which resulted in the complete loss of my voice. My doctor put me on steroids because my vocal chords were inflamed and swollen. It did not help. I went to an ENT. He found no abnormalities or paralysis. It has been 21 days that I've been silent. I'm not a smoker or a screamer. I am however a teacher. Why now? Thank you!

Melissa Kim M.S., CCC-SLP replies...

There are any number of reasons why someone might experience voice change - or even voice loss - but recommendations for treatment depend on an accurate diagnosis! What did your ENT feel was the cause of your voice difficulties?