Getting your voice back, once it goes hoarse, can be a challenge. Here are some recommendations to help you recover.
Losing your voice is always an inconvenience, but especially so when you have something important, such as a job interview or your sister’s wedding, on your schedule.
There’s no magical way to bring your voice back to normal speaking levels overnight. Instead, handling a hoarse voice can be a slow process that requires a lot of patience and very little talking, both of which can pose a challenge. But, with the right tips, you can help speed up the process of healing a hoarse voice — or at least avoid exacerbating it.
Hoarseness isn’t necessarily the same thing as losing your voice. It’s much broader than that. In fact, “hoarseness is a broad, general term to describe any change in voice quality,” says Karla O’Dell. MD, an otolaryngologist from the USC Voice Center at the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery of Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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That can entail a raspy quality, any change in pitch or an unusual strain in your voice. You can blame a hoarse voice on either a change in the mucosa (the covering of the vocal folds) or the function of the muscles that control the vocal cords. No matter the reason behind it, though, a few smart steps can help ease a hoarse voice.
Rest your voice.
The best remedy for a hoarse voice is to take a miniature vow of silence and not speak for at least three days. If that’s not possible, at least minimize the amount of talking, in order to give your vocal folds a break.
Speaking in a whisper may seem like it could alleviate a hoarse voice — since it sounds softer to listeners than your typical tone — but it actually does the opposite. “Whispering requires more effort than using our voice at a regular volume,” says O’Dell. Attempting to speak in a lower tone of voice puts strain on the vocal folds, which in turn causes more injury.
Drinking water throughout the day is a good idea, anyway, but it’s especially beneficial, when your voice is hoarse. Aim for eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, to soothe and hydrate your throat.
Speak from your diaphragm.
If and when you do speak with a hoarse voice, use a steady current of air to do so. In practice, that means relaxing your neck muscles and breathing from your diaphragm. It’ll take some of the pressure off your vocal folds.
If you’ve experienced a change in your voice for more than two weeks, see a specialist, such as an otolaryngologist or laryngologist. In most cases, the problem can be treated right away, once a professional diagnoses you.
And, in the meantime, you can consider a hoarse voice as a way to practice being a good listener — or, as a reason to take a break from your phone.
by Deanna Pai
If you’re in the Southern California area and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment to schedule an appointment.