Any way to recover my voice?

If someone, say, does battle with a sinus-infection type cold, develops a cough because of it, and completely loses their voice, is there anything to be done? I can live with the coughing and the sinus pain because I know they’ll go away on their own, but I would like to be able to actually speak audibly. I know of a dozen homemade cold remedies (tea with honey, gargle with salt water, etc), but will any of them actually help me get my voice back ASAP?

The best thing I’ve found is Slippery Elm throat lozenges. You can find them at Whole Foods and other crunchy granola stores. Picture of the box.

Maybe a doc will be along to provide hard medical advice, but I’ve done a lot of singing so I’ve checked into this. Losing your voice in the way your describe is laryngitis, which means inflammation of the larynx, your voice box. When your vocal cords become inflamed and swollen they won’t vibrate properly, or at all. The remedies that you mention make a sore throat feel better, but they don’t get over to the larynx, in the trachea. The best thing to do is just be quiet for a while. A doctor might be able to prescribe something that can lessen the inflammation but I’m not sure, and even if so there would be temptation for your to abuse your voice before you’re really better.

You have to be careful about forcing your voice when you’re hoarse or have laryngitis, because the vocal cords can rub together, causing nodules, which are like calluses. The only cure for nodules is complete rest for the voice possibly combined with voice therapy. So rest your voice or you could end up worse off!

One thing to avoid, believe it or not, is whispering. Cite. I’ve heard that it’s almost as bad for your vocal chords as shouting.

Amen to this. Absolutely nothing you eat or drink will help your larynx recover from injury or irritation, with the exception that drinking healthy amounts of clear fluids is always good for the voice, because it keeps your mucous membranes nicely hydrated. Getting plenty of rest and respecting your voice’s very clear signal that it is not happy to make noise right now are your best bets.

Steroids can bring the swelling down, but they should only be used in absolute emergencies, since the recovery period after using them is even longer than if you hadn’t taken them in the first place. I mention that only because some doctors are cavalier about prescribing them.

Ugh, that’s what I was afraid of. The only real way it’s actually interferring with my life is that I’ll need to call my father this weekend, and if my parents hear me all raspy and whatnot, they’ll immediately assume that their Little Girl (who is currently living abroad) is deathly ill and about to die, because that’s what my parents do. I guess I’ll just keep pouring tea down my throat and continue hoping that the Magical Perfect Health Fairy will come visit me while I sleep.

Out of curiosity: some brief Googling indicates that the actual laryngitis is caused by a virus. I’ve definitely had sinus infections before and I’m fairly certain that’s what I had/have, and I’m almost certain that they’re bacterial infections. What’s the dope on that - is the virus just a sort of opportunistic secondary deal?

Actually, laryngitis is simply “swelling of the larynx.” It can be caused by allergies, post-nasal drip, acid reflux, viruses, infections, over-use or abuse of the voice, etc.

There is no one cause.

I had this last weekend. I don’t know if you can get them in the US (seems you can get them in Canada), but there’s a liquorice product here called Meloids that really do the job. They’re what singers and actors use. It might just be a placebo, but I’ve found it efficacious. Last week, however, I just didn’t say anything, to my wife’s great relief.

I don’t know specifically about laryngitis, but a garden variety sore throat, for example, can be caused by bacterial, a viral, or fungal infections. The term laryngitis does not refer to the cause, it refers to the symptom. I don’t know of a reason that a bacterial sinus infection could not cause laryngitis. I guess you could also have both.

One way to get a sinus infection is to get a cold virus, then get really congested, with lots of mucus pooling in your sinuses, which then forms an ideal growth medium for bacteria. So it might be the bacterial infection that is opportunistic.

But IANAD.

IANAD but here’s advice from someone who was (and maybe still is). I was performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival one year. During some street performances I shouted too much (it can be hard to be heard on the street) and I lost my voice. So I went to see a doctor. Here’s what he told me.

  1. There isn’t really anything anyone can do. You just have to give your voice time to recover, and rest it. The more COMPLETE the rest (ie not talking or trying to talk AT ALL), the better, and the more quickly you’ll get your voice back.

  2. If you take a small sip of whisky, and he did mean a small sip and purely for medicinal purposes, this can give you a brief period (5-10 minutes) where you will be able to use your voice a little bit, but even then it’s best to use your voice as little as possible.

  3. A note for future reference. The trick learned by drill-instructors, public speakers and others who often have to be ‘loud’ is this: if you’ve got a good, loud voice, okay, use it, but always stay a little way short of your maximum ‘volume’. If you do this, you can use your voice a lot without harming it. It’s the times when you try to operate at maximum, flat-out ‘all the way up to eleven’ volume that does all the damage and can give you something to recover from.

Admittedly, all the above pertains to someone who has lost their voice through over-exerting it, and the advice may or may not be right for someone who has lost their voice through infection. But… you know, just offering it for what it’s worth.

i would suggest sign language. however, that’s not much use on the phone…

Gargle warm salt water with asprin dissolved in it. Asprin reduces the inflamation, warm salt water gives the vocal chords their best chance to recover. Speak and/or sing as little as possible.

Recommended by my voice coach. IANAD, YMMV and other caveats. It works for me.