Voice loss after illness
April 23, 2020 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I had some kind of virus/stomach issue in mid February, and lost my voice almost completely. Now, 9 weeks later, it still hasn't come back. Looking for advice/hopeful anecdata, etc.

After vomiting the contents of my empty stomach (sorry for TMI), my voice immediately disappeared almost entirely and my throat was very sore. Three weeks later, I saw an ENT with an endoscope and she looked in my throat and said the vocal cords looked fine, but all the surrounding tissues were very inflamed, and that I'd basically given myself an acid burn. Now it's been 9 weeks, and my voice is very hoarse and often comes out only as a whisper. It's painful to have a conversation or meeting (unfortunate in these times of zoom meetings), and I really miss singing and talking to my toddler. I had a telehealth appointment last week and was prescribed steroids, which haven't helped, but it doesn't sound like there's much more they can do until they are seeing patients in the office again. Just wondering if anyone has any similar experience with voice damage? Words of advice?
posted by sizeable beetle to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
I lost my voice after being really sick this past winter. The first time wasn't quite nine weeks (although it was close to it)' the second time it was a bit shorter. After putting up with it for weeks (during the first round of laryngitis), I finally got a doctor to look at it. I received the same type of diagnosis: inflammation. The doc said just take an anti-inflammatory (he suggested Advil) and drink warm liquids. Eventually and slowly it came back, although I've found that since then, I've been quick to lose it again if I feel mildly unwell or get a mild cold.
posted by sardonyx at 3:30 PM on April 23, 2020

I lost my speaking voice for several days, and my singing voice for several months, years ago. In my case, the ENT said there was some damage to the vocal cords which is not your issue but I think the doc's advice was sound: rest, rest, rest. Don't push it, rest your voice as much as you can, and give it time to come back. For me, I went six months without singing (which was torture for me, and a real impediment to my participation in choir practices) but it *did* come back. Of course, my solid second soprano voice transitioned to a first soprano (hello descants!) but it came back and I don't think I've had a bout of laryngitis in all the years since.
posted by DrGail at 5:01 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Talk as little as possible, drink warm (but not really hot) liquids, and don't whisper. Just speak softly and kind of nasally, and that will be easier on your throat. Gargling with salt water really does relieve throat pain, it's not just a nutty old wives tale. It's temporary numbing, but it might help to try it before your meetings. Also licorice or throat-coat tea, if you can find it at the grocery store, is great stuff. Essentially just spoil your throat with as much soothing goodness as much as you can.

You said you had problems with your stomach and with acid? Are you still having those symptoms at all? I had significant throat problems after a surgery a few years ago, but was also suffering heartburn at the same time. My doctor prescribed a three week regime of heartburn meds, and I saw improvement both in my heartburn and in my throat. It may be something to consider; I was taking Ranitidine at the time, but I've since switched to Pepcid.
posted by backwards compatible at 5:41 PM on April 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Dumb: Living Without a Voice by Georgia Webber is about how the author lost her voice for a prolonged period of time and her gradual recovery.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:18 PM on April 23, 2020

It could be that you have ongoing acid reflux that's affecting your voice. I'd encourage you to avoid acidic foods for several weeks. You can also talk to your doctor about acid reflux meds if it still doesn't go away. Those stomach bugs can be brutal and it wouldn't surprise me if it led to some ongoing reflux problems.
posted by Amy93 at 7:34 PM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

I had persistent oral thrush that went down my throat after a viral illness, causing long-lasting inflammation. The moron ENT who said it was inflamed at an 8 out of 10 tried to tell me it was silent reflux, in spite of a healthy diet, a normal weight and no other risk factors, and my strenuously telling him it was not. They messed me around until I was having trouble breathing and it took a 25 day course of antifungals from an infectious disease specialist to finally clear it.

Unless you're on immune suppressants or use an asthma inhaler it's unlikely to be thrush, but know that thrush doesn't always present as "white film" in some people. Evey time I get oral thrush it's just red and painful, and if I let it go too long at all (new city, new idiot GP or ENT who won't listen) it heads straight down my throat, especially if I'm getting over something viral.

I don't know what this is for you, but it sounds like it's turned into something more than just the original issue. You may have to strongly advocate for yourself and see other doctors.

Good luck. It sounds like this really sucks.
posted by liminal_shadows at 8:53 PM on April 23, 2020

I don't know if you can get a dermatologist to look at your throat, but in two different cities my derm immediately recognized my oral issues as thrush before it went as far as my throat. If you have a derm, maybe you can ask. The other place I've had luck with is infectious disease docs, but you may have a hard time getting a referral. Even if your insurance doesn't require a referral the ID guys will.
posted by liminal_shadows at 8:57 PM on April 23, 2020

I get laryngitis regularly. The only things that help me recover quickly: no talking for a week (very difficult, I use my phone and pen and paper), honey in my drinks, staying extremely hydrated.

Any amount of talking during the voice rest period extends the amount of time my voice is screwed up. Mine is primarily irritation and inflammation from allergies, so hydration and antihistamines to manage the problem, then voice rest for as long as possible. Otherwise it's Tom Waits going through puberty for weeks.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2020

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