The worst thing a singer can go through before a big performance is losing their voice. Even a cough or a sore throat can prove to be a massive impediment in that scenario.

Throat and voice problems, such as inflammation of the larynx, might not seem much to the ordinary person, but they can cost a singer their career.

Like athletes need to train their muscles and look after their bodies, singers need to look after their voice.

In most cases, voice training is enough, but medical intervention might be needed for more severe issues.

As a singer, you must look after your vocal cords, as they are your money maker. However, in case you face a vocal cord injury or other physiological issues with your voice, you can seek the help of medical professionals, most notably ENT specialists and speech pathologists.

We'll be looking at some of the medical professions that tend to singers, what they do, and when you should visit them.

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What Is A Speech Pathologist?

Speech pathologists focus on medical issues involving speech and language. Their area of expertise consists in dealing with:

  • Voice problems
  • Speech problems like stuttering and inability to pronounce words correctly
  • Problems with hearing and swallowing

These specialists diagnose the patient's vocal health and speech and develop effective treatments for these impairments.

They specialize in everything that goes on in your vocal cords, as well as the psychological components of producing speech.

Although they're not qualified for surgery, they can recommend surgical intervention for particular conditions.

If the problem is severe and goes beyond the scope of their expertise, they will recommend you to visit an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist for further investigation and treatment.

Speech pathologists may recommend over-the-counter remedies for mild conditions. These can be regularly found items such as lemon juice and herbal tea.

A man wearing a denim shirt holds a brown guitar and sings into a microphone in a dark setting. Training your voice to avoid injuries to your vocal cords and throat is monumental for professional singers
Professional singers are the most susceptible to a throat or vocal cord injury. Consecutive performances in front of live audiences in packed arenas can harm their voice and put them at risk of significant damage (Source: Unsplash)

When Should Singers Visit Medical Professionals

If you're suffering from speech impediments or mild vocal health problems like hoarseness of voice or voice breaking, you should contemplate visiting a speech pathologist or an EMT specialist.

In the case of singers, your vocal coach might recommend a visit to the speech pathologist if they notice issues with your voice delivery, pronunciation, or modulation.

Singing repeatedly and every day can put undue stress on your throat and make you susceptible to a vocal cord injury.

In which case, a diagnosis and treatment plan by a professional can help you recover and avoid further problems in the future.

While several speech problems are congenital, some can be caused by undue stress to the vocal cords, hindering your potential singing career.

Most of these problems do not go away if ignored and may amplify with time if left untended for too long.

Singers, actors, professional speakers, anchors, radio hosts, and pretty much anyone who relies on their voice for their job must see a speech pathologist or an EMT specialist if they notice any sudden or lingering problems.

Many of us have undiagnosed speech and vocal problems which we're not even aware of. With that said, some common symptoms that can warrant a visit to the speech pathologist include:

  • Vocal fatigue
  • Difficulty raising your voice
  • Difficulty reaching high notes
  • Aphonia
  • Dysphonia
  • Voice loss
  • Scratchy throat
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Inflammation of the throat
  • A change in vocal timbre

One demographic of people who are particularly susceptible to voice problems are smokers. Singers who smoke should visit a pathologist if they notice changes in their voices.

A man in a grey shirt holding a guitar and singing into a mic with a wooden piano placed behind him. Singing in front of a live audience can be straining, but even singing for pre-recorded sessions can be stressful. Get past these problems by training your voice!
While pre-recorded sessions do not require you to rely entirely on your voice and it is possible to use a voice training app instead, it is still quite stressful on the vocal cords if you're going for an extended session (Source: Unsplash)
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What To Expect From A Visit To A Medical Professional

If you feel your voice is not the same after a performance, consult with a speech pathologist or an ENT specialist. They will conduct a laryngoscopy to inspect the troubled area.

Doctors will generally tell you to rest your vocal cords for some time and avoid singing, spending this off-time training your voice. If you consume alcohol or cigarettes, you may be asked to ease off on both.

But things can get a little complicated if you depend on your voice for your career.

You may be advised to carry out abdominal breathing exercises to alleviate stress, avoid activities that put undue strain on your voice, and keep your throat lubricated. These measures should help you avoid hoarseness after a gig.

If your condition is severe and seems to be affecting your vocal cords physiologically, you might be recommended to undergo surgery.

While speech therapy may fix your voice, it cannot fix underlying physiological problems like nodules and polyps in the throat.

And unfortunately, after surgery, you may have to relearn how to train your voice to sing again for a short period.

Medical professionals will resort to using a number of tools to diagnose problems in your throat, vocal cords, and larynx. Let's discuss some of them:

  • Laryngoscope: A tool used to inspect the back of the throat through the naked eye
  • Endoscope: A camera inserted into your throat and larynx to observe the inner physiological structure
  • Pharyngoscope: A tool used to record the vocal cord movements from the patient's mouth

The first step is a consultation; it is here that the doctor will tell you if you're in the green or not. A problem like a vocal cord injury might be diagnosed in just one consultation.

A man in a grey hooded sweatshirt singing in a mic in a dark room with a light in the background. Voice training is something all singers need to go through if they aspire towards a professional career
A singer often has to record a song multiple times in a studio; this can be a problem if they have a vocal cord injury or have lost their voice due to constant pressure on the throat. It is essential to give yourself some time to rest between performances (Source: Unsplash)

Singing Training To Avoid Medical Complications

If you're enrolled in singing classes, discuss your problem with a singing tutor before consulting a medical expert.

It is possible some vocal exercises and singing techniques might be putting undue stress on your cords. Ask your teacher for comfortable methods to improving your singing voice.

Vocal coaches have years of experience behind them, and they can help you with common vocal issues. Most singing coaches will also know about speech pathology and the basic physiology around your core muscles, throat, and vocal cords.

While you can record your voice and play it back later or use voice training apps to detect the discrepancies in your pitch, nothing beats human guidance.

Perhaps the best way to improve your voice is by signing up for face-to-face tutorials where your tutor is guiding you in person.

These types of lessons tend to be the most cost-effective as you're more attuned to the task at hand and can synchronize your tune with your tutor.

However, they're also more expensive than other coaching styles as the teacher will be dedicating a lot of time to the lessons and will have to account for commuting.

With the internet, virtual lessons are very much an alternative to in-person tutoring lessons. If you work full-time and can't find the time to commute, online lessons may be the right option for you.

The only difference between online and in-person lessons is that the tutor is not in the same room as you.

With no hassle of commute and the luxury of scheduling more lessons per week, tutors can charge more competitive rates.

And lastly, you can sign up for group tutorials, where you learn singing training and voice training, in the same class as several other students.

Improve Your Voice And Vocal Health With A Qualified Voice Coach

If you're looking to improve your voice, taking voice lessons with a qualified vocal coach can do you a lot of good.

Find a singing coach near you on Superprof to improve your singing voice, improve the way you speak, and gain confidence in your speaking skills as well.

With Superprof, you get to decide how you want to set up your singing lessons. How we sound to ourselves is not necessarily how we sound to others, which is why it is vital to have someone mentoring you and telling you where you go off-key.

Perhaps the best part about having a voice coach is that they can advise remedies to help you maintain your vocal integrity, keeping you from making unexpected trips to the ENT.

Sign up with Superprof and get access to the most qualified singing trainers and voice coaches in your local area.

Set up a meeting with them to see if you can develop a singing repertoire and get singing right away!

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Ian