Take Care Of Your Voice

It happened to singer Julie Andrews and to TV anchorman Sam Donaldson. They both have had problems with the tools of their trade -- their voices. But even if you don't rely on your voice to earn a living, losing it can be a serious problem, reports CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.

If you are losing your voice, or you sound hoarse or raspy all the time, or if you get tired easily from talking, you might be a victim of your own bad habits.

When Sarah Kirshbaum sought medical advice for her worsening husky voice, Dr. Scott Kessler quickly found the problem -- nodules on her vocal cords that build up over time like calluses.

"We'd like the cords under normal circumstances to be nice and smooth and straight," Dr. Kessler explains to her.

When the vocal cords try to close and come together, they vibrate. But the nodules create gaps that allow air to escape, which creates the windy, raspy sound of a hoarse voice.

Kessler says the nodules result from the stress Sarah puts on her vocal cords by speaking from deep in her throat and from speaking a lot.

"When I get to work, I probably am talking, you know, at least half the day, whether on the phone or in meetings," she says. "And then at night, a lot of loud restaurants and bars and that kind of thing, talking over crowds. I think that probably exacerbated the situation."

Kessler also says that bad speaking habits are hard to break because they start early in life. Sarah is trying speech therapy to break those habits and get rid of the nodules, with voice exercises as a daily part of her plan.

There's every reason to expect that with speech therapy, the nodules will decrease in size and over time, actually go away completely. But if it doesn't work, there is a relatively simple and quick surgery that can eliminate them and resolve her raspy voice.

Several conditions can make a person lose their voice, including:

  • Acid reflux
  • Polyps that develop like blisters
  • Bruises caused by coughing and sneezing
  • Infections can cause swelling and inflammation
Losing your voice also can be a sign of much more serious conditions, such as cancer.

Other factors that can affect voice quality include excessive dryness, smoking or second-hand smoke, or anything that prevents the normal lubrication of the vocal chords.

If you notice discomfort in the throat or your voice is not quite right, hydrate your vocal cords by drinking plenty of water and rest your voice by not talking to give any swelling that may have occurred the chance to go down.

If the condition persists after a couple of days, see your doctor.

Reported By Dr. Emily Senay