How can I get my normal voice back?
November 8, 2010 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone lost their voice and it's taken weeks for it to sound normal again?

I was sick with a sinus infection in mid September... I lost my voice for 3 days. Since then it has not been fully normal, I've been somewhat plagued with the 'man voice' (I'm female haha) I'm a elementary teacher so I can't just rest it and not talk, sadly that's not an option in my field. Just wondering if anyone else has experienced this....

Some background: 3 years ago I was sick with a sinus infection and lost my voice for 16 days, yes 16! Took a full month for my voice to be normal after it came back. Since then whenever I have a sinus infection I tend to lose it for 1-3 days. Never this long though, have not had an issue with my 'normal' voice coming back since the incident 3 years ago. The solution according to various doctors is 'wait it out'. Just wondering if there is someone more I should mention to them or if anyone has experienced this and it has been a specific medical problem maybe I've missed/doctors have not thought of?

Any advice is appreciated, ty in advance!
posted by bluehermit to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Potentially chronic laryngitis. Did any of the doctors rule that out?
posted by jedicus at 6:51 PM on November 8, 2010

I once had a respiratory infection, and it took me about a year to fully recover.
posted by chicago2penn at 6:52 PM on November 8, 2010

I'm going through the same thing now. Been two months. I sing a bit, and still don't have my full range back, and I have big problems if I try to yell. It's getting better, gradually.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:52 PM on November 8, 2010

Yep. Seems like I lose half an octave every time my voice goes away. Started life as a high soprano & now I'm a low alto. Only exaggerating a little.
posted by Ys at 6:56 PM on November 8, 2010

Yep. Lost my voice after a really bad bout of bronchitis, and it took a full year, lot of Neti potting, and antihistamine nasal spray to recover my full range.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2010

Yeah, a decade back I lost my voice to the point where I could only make seal-like barks. When it came back, my slightly high voice had achieved a raggedness that sounded like I had been smoking in the womb and gargled gravel with my baby formula. This lasted a week, during which I regularly called my friend and, with almost no effort, did a pretty fine impression of Harvey Fierstein, the better to leave Mrs. Doubtfire and Torch Song Trilogy bits on his answering machine.

Gargling salt water, drinking tea with honey, tea with ginger, tea with lemon, none of it seems to help. For every throat infection, it's Harvey time, for no less than four days.
posted by adipocere at 7:28 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine spontaneously lost his voice -- and, though it came back within a month or two, nine MONTHS later he still sounds like the Godfather. Doctors determined some kind of vocal cord paralysis. Unsure if this is similar, but I thought I'd pile on anyways.
posted by liquado at 7:45 PM on November 8, 2010

Wife lost her voice last week. Absolutely unable to speak. It's only now starting to come back. Usually, by the end of the day, she's already starting to croak again. Based on her progress, I'm guessing it's going to be this way for at least a month. I think that's just how laryngitis goes.
posted by Gilbert at 8:05 PM on November 8, 2010

I had the swine flu last year, which turned into bronchitis. I did not have a voice for six weeks.
posted by brujita at 8:20 PM on November 8, 2010

My voice takes weeks or months to recover from illness or overuse, too. Getting TONS of sleep, and making sure not to lose it again before it comes all the way back, are the only things that help.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:42 PM on November 8, 2010

A Tale of Supreme Stupidity: once upon a time, in the fall, I was coming down with a minor cold. Runny nose, slight fever, sore throat... enough to make me feel a little crappy, but not enough to keep me home. And it was the town beer festival! How could a minor cold keep me from very loud music and hours of beer samples?

Needless to say, the chilly air, sore throat, alcohol, and hours of shouting had a devastating effect on my voice. For an entire week I could not talk. Not low talking, not whispering... nothing. My vocal cords must have been stiff as bark because I couldn't make anything more than a "hahhhhh" sound. Even that was difficult.

So I passed notes to everyone; just like Nick in The Stand I carried a pen and paper pad everywhere I went. I worried someone would misunderstand and arrest me for trying to holdup the coffee house. Even did a conference call where I typed my responses and had my boss read them into the speaker phone.

It was at least two weeks before I could talk at a whisper and sometimes low voice. A full month before I was able to get a somewhat normal (but often cracking) voice back. No idea if it had any permanent damage to my range (not at all a singer) but it's been 8 years and things seem just fine to me.

No tips other than what you've already guessed. Your throat needs time to heal so put as little stress on it as possible. Resist the urge to raise your voice at your kids and I'd recommend not talking at all outside of work. Can you get the school administrator to send you a teachers aid till you're better? That might help with some of the talking.

Not sure how effective it is, but a humidifier at home might also be a good idea. Dry fall air isn't going to help the recovery.
posted by sbutler at 8:58 PM on November 8, 2010

Persistent laryngitis is obviously experienced by lots of people, but it is especially prevalent in teachers. In the early parts of your career [before you really learn to use your teacher voice] you can do some damage by keeping going when you have laryngitis. Even with a developed voice teaching requires way above average use of our vocal cords. I know teachers in later stages of their career who have had to take a term off from teaching to really rest their vocal cords. Some have even needed surgery to remove polyps. I am not saying this is applicable to you, but I am not surprised to hear of your occupation and the age group you teach - they need lots of vocal work from you. You do need to rest your voice so even if colleagues find it strange, alarmist or whatever, insist that you do so.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:31 PM on November 8, 2010

I agree with all the advice above, but would also suggest that seeing a speech therapist might be useful at some point. I am not one myself, but I had a interesting talk about this very subject with one once; she had treated many teachers and other people who need to use their (elevated) voice in their line of work. Learning very good voice techniques can help you prevent a lot of problems. Also, according to her, it's not uncommon for work-related stress to manifest itself in all sorts of voice-related problems in your profession - sometimes there can be even a total loss of voice without any physiological reason at all. So it can be the body's subconscious way of saying "I need a break", in which case all sorts of practical and coping skills to relieve stress can be helpful, too. (Not saying that's the case here, just thought it worth mentioning.)
posted by sively at 12:04 AM on November 9, 2010

Yeah, I've lost my voice completely three times in the last two years, once for two weeks, though mercifully it coincided with a long break. And I had to rest my voice completely during that time. It felt like there was no improvement for the majority of those two weeks, but the improvement was rapid once it came.

My thoughts - I know the guilt of taking time off for laryngitis. It seems somehow a moral failing to take time off when you're able bodied in all other ways, and to be honest most people that have never been inflicted by severe acute laryngitis just don't understand.

However, in my experience, the best way to avoid being out of action for weeks is to take a day or two to recuperate when the acute stage hits. If you get laryngitis early in the week, it's best not to be a hero and just take the day off or even two, and give your sheepish apologies after. If it's late in the week, you can risk pushing yourself but make sure you take give your voice full vocal rest in the evening after work, and during the weekend. Try and enlist the understanding of your workmates, if they aren't being so already. It might help to get a better handle on your condition if you see an ENT, if you haven't already. It helped me, and made me feel like I was being less of a wuss by resting the pipes, because it serious- as previous posters have mentioned, you could develop polyps or worse. And this might be obvious, but let your students know too and get them on side.

Also it is definitely an occupational hazard associated with teaching - in the UK at least, teachers make up 1.5pc of the population, yet make up over 10pc of people presenting at ENT clinics.
posted by ultrabuff at 5:03 AM on November 9, 2010

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