singers of AskMe please help
September 11, 2022 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I blew my voice out.

Friday before last I was tracking vox in the studio and pushed too hard and blew my voice out. Went on vocal rest all week, drank a lot of throat coat tea with honey, then did a rehearsal this past Thursday and a gig this past Friday. My voice was ALMOST back to normal before the show. I sang safely and well and didn't blow it out.

Then after the show we were in a loud bar for a few hours and I had to shout to be heard. 🤦‍♀️

So I've now blown it out AGAIN. And I have another show this Friday.

Back on vocal rest, drinking ALL THE THROAT COAT. Is there anything else I can do to protect my voice and get it back to normal in the next 6 days - or at least close enough to normal that I can get through the show again safely? My voice coach got hit HARD by COVID last week so I can't confer with her, she's barely functional at the moment.

Stupid loud bars.

posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sleep. Your voice can only heal when you sleep.
Don’t speak. Definitely do NOT whisper, whispering is worse than speaking. But just sleep.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:34 AM on September 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Find an ENT/otolaryngologist or even your GP and get some steroids. That's what you need. See if your voice coach knows the right doctor to call -- there's often one physician in a local area who deals with singers a lot, and this is the person who can help you best. They will also be most likely to let you book an appointment within a "singer's emergency" time frame.
posted by amtho at 12:02 PM on September 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also: humidifier. Now. I recommend a steam one over a cool mist one just to avoid the risk of mold.

If you want something more eco friendly but a little more high maintenance, you can set up a drying rack near where you hang out and drape wet (spun dry) laundry over it.

Throat coat tea isn't magic, I'm afraid.

Oh also: remove all potential allergens from your environment. Damp wipe walls, dust everything, put clean sheets and towels out, etc. Wipe down your cat if you have one :)
posted by amtho at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a singer and sitting next to another singer right now typing this. We say, in unison:



Get enough sleep.

Be silent. If you have to speak, mind your support and head-on-neck balance. Alexander technique can be helpful here.

Years ago we used to recommend soluble aspirin to reduce inflammation. Now people use it less, because its anticoagulant properties are thought to make the consequences worse if you *really* overdo it and rupture a blood vessel. But other anti-inflammatories are fine. Ibuprofen also has a mild muscle relaxant effect.

Do semi-occluded exercises to get the larynx back into its proper position. The classic one is blowing bubbles with a straw into a half-full bottle of water for ten breaths. Don't blow too hard, just exhale. Many a voice has been saved by the straw.

Do silent, exhaled lip trills and tongue trills to release jaw and tongue tension. Massage your jaw, neck and scalp.

As you come off vocal rest and start rehabbing your voice, you can introduce some phonation into the straw exercise, the lip trills and tongue trills.

Read Care of the Professional Voice by D. Garfield Davis (though it was written in 1998 and some of the scholarship is outdated).

Take care of yourself. If you're stuck in a loud situation again, raise your pitch, not your volume. A high pitch with plenty of frontal resonance (and good consonants) will carry in most situations.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:14 PM on September 11, 2022 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I am frantically trying to get an emergency ENT appointment but won't really be able to reach anyone before tomorrow. If I'm not able to get an emergency appointment, would going to urgent care for steroids be an okay alternative? I know there are some risks to performing while on steroids that an ENT who works with singers would be able to educate me about. My vocal coach has emerged from her COVID fugue state to warn me about that - she's concerned an urgent care doc won't know how to guide me. Her go-to ENT is on vacation right now. I'm trying to figure out how to get help safely.

Roger that on the rest, steam, hydration, and no talking.
posted by nayantara at 3:35 PM on September 11, 2022

Best answer: A night's rest and silence will do your voice more good than dealing with urgent care and meds whose side effects you can't predict.

(Urgent care is also full of people with colds and other respiratory ailments, including COVID, which wouldn't be good for your voice either.)

Just rest up and try to unstress your mind till working hours tomorrow.

When you wake up in the morning, you will likely have some phlegm on your cords. Do not cough to clear your throat. Instead, drink some hot tea-- ideally without milk-- and it will clear.

(Camomile tea is my go-to for this)

Please take it easy. Do not panic. You have until Friday. You can do this if you treat yourself gently until then.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:10 PM on September 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Do you know / can you Google and find other singers in your area, or close enough? Ask around to see if there's another go-to ENT for singers.

And, you know, accept that you will need to live like a nun for a while. No bars. No roller coasters. No parties unless you bring a notebook and paper :)
posted by amtho at 4:12 PM on September 11, 2022

Response by poster: I'm unfortunately quite new to the area where I live now (I'm in Almost Vermont, NY) and don't have a mucicians' network to tap into. Closest large ENT facility is in Albany, which is too far of a hike. I WFH but there is an ENT in the office complex where my workplace's HQ is located 45 minutes away from my house so I'm going to try them first but none of the physicians mention working with musicians in their bio on their website and my vocal coach is adamant that I need to speak with someone who understands the voice as an instrument bc recovering from a vocal injury just for speaking is a bit different.

My vocal coach is in NYC and her ENT does Telehealth so she was hoping to get me in with him but alas he's on vacation. Like I said I will try the ENT near my company's office and if they can give me an emergency appointment tomorrow I'll just go with that and work from the office for the day. (Except without talking. Which will be hard.)
posted by nayantara at 5:24 PM on September 11, 2022

If you had time (and you should probably be asleep now :) you could look for an ENT online with telehealth options, yourself -- but a reputable one would probably want to see you and your throat in person, at least for a first appointment. Still, if you were desperate and had time, you could look.

You could also try e-mailing the practice you mention, and see if anyone there works with singers regularly and/or is interested, but just doesn't mention it in their bio yet.

OR you could message the office of the ENT your voice teacher knows and see if they can recommend anyone.
posted by amtho at 9:26 PM on September 11, 2022

Professional voice user here. Throat coat tea and honey and all that bullcrap will have exactly zero affect on healing, except to the extent that they may encourage you to keep your voice instrument lubricated by hydrating well. Guaifenesin can help thin your mucous if that is an issue for you.

The bad news is that nothing will healthfully hasten the recovery of an abused voice instrument other than rest. Run away from anyone who tells you there is some special vocal exercise that will help your voice instrument recover from injury. Unfortunately the business is rife with charlatans. Voice exercises are for learning how to use the voice instrument in a way that produces the desired effect while minimizing "wear and tear." They help provide a better future rather than fixing the past. Higher levels of abuse require lengthier periods of rest. When you say you "blew out" your voice, I assume this means mean severe hoarseness and difficulties phonating. The fact that this happened on consecutive Fridays does not bode well. Some singers, just like some athletes, seem to have remarkable healing factors and instruments that are able to withstand more abuse and recover more rapidly compared to others (the dramatic tenor Mario del Monaco, for example). You do not appear to be one of those singers. It could be quite some time before your instrument recovers fully, depending on what shape your instrument is in. As long as a month wouldn't be all that unusual. Severe laryngitis from vocal abuse is no joke.

You could get an injection of prednisone, but I would counsel against it unless it is an absolute emergency as this can lead to a cycle of abuse-prednisone-abuse-prednisone-etc. At some point you're going to have to take the time off. This is directly analogous to a professional athlete with a sprained ankle who takes injections to make it through the end of the season. These athletes are never able to rely on that ankle until it's actually healed, and there is a heightened risk of reinjury or even permanent injury. You have already experienced reinjury. In the case of a singer, you can burst a blood vessel on a vocal fold, you can develop polyps, nodules or scar tissue on the vibrating edges of your vocal folds, you could cause some calcification of your vocal folds, etc. Some of these things can eventually require surgical correction, and some of them can be permanent. I should hasten to add, however, that not all these things are so bad depending on the genre of music. Some singers and some genres of music require purity of tone whereas an "interesting voice" may even be an advantage for other singers and other genres. Tom Waits doesn't need the same purity of tone as Steve Perry, and Steve Perry doesn't need the same purity of tone as Luciano Pavarotti.

Certainly a visit to an ENT can give you some meaningful information as to the state of your voice instrument, and if you are serious about singing and the health of your voice you should have a relationship with an otolaryngologist/laryngologist who knows about singing. One of these may be able to give you steroids to get you through an "absolutely must do" performance, or may advise you to cancel the performance. Regardless of whether you end up doing the performance, you may be in for a fairly lengthy period of vocal rest.

One thing to look out for is talking, especially talking over background noise. Many a singer has tired out their voice by too much talking on the tour bus. Needless to say, if your voice is feeling tired after a performance, do not spend time afterwards shouting at a loud bar.
posted by slkinsey at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: We have no more shows till November so I'll have plenty of time to recover after Friday. In the meantime I am happy to report that no talking, hydration, and lots of sleep (long nap yesterday plus good night's sleep last night) has already shown dramatically noticeable improvement so I'm just going to keep going with that. This is basically what happened last week before our show, so I'm gonna blame bar-yelling for this repeat debacle.

This is also the first time I have blown my voice out after 7 years playing very loud classic rock in bar bands on a bimonthly basis. Like, AC/DC and Zeppelin loud. I studied voice seriously through my childhood and obviously still have a coach now so my technique is pretty damn sound in performance. Bar yelling was obviously not great but I think the more serious error was pushing so hard in the recording session - it's the only variable that has changed after years of performance. I have only started recording in the last two years and it's a completely different skillset when it comes to mic technique, etc. Between the environment being different in a studio vs a venue, recording requiring lots of repitition, and me not recognizing my limits in a recording space I set myself up for an injury. My voice coach says it's a sucky lesson learned the hard way (and she had the same thing happen to her in the beginning of her career as a stage actress) but in a way it's good because going forward I know my limits in the studio.

I feel much less worried now that I've already noticed an improvement so I'll just stay the course. The ENT local to me doesn't do emergency appointments so that sucks. (Problems of living in the boonies.) I'm going to get myself to an appointment with one of the ENTs at the Albany facility after our show - they have three who work with singers - to get scoped and ensure this isn't more severe than it seems.
posted by nayantara at 11:01 AM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I am happy to report that as of this morning, my voice is 100% back to normal. I will still continue vocal rest through the next three days until the show, but it looks like the vocal rest, hydration, hot showers with steam, and lots of sleep has done the trick! I am fully out of Emergency territory now.

Since I have nearly two months off till our next show I will prioritize vocal health and make an appointment with an ENT to get scoped, but I don't feel the need to request an official emergency urgent appointment.

And I won't yell at the loud venue on Friday either. 🙂

Thanks again all for your great advice and support! Very glad I didn't have to resort to steroids.
posted by nayantara at 9:15 AM on September 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

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