As a singer, there is nothing worse than losing your voice. It helps to know what the cause is and how to get your voice back.
I often get calls and texts from artists needing vocal rescue tips when suffering from illness, vocal fatigue or overuse issues.
Let’s figure out what is going on and what we can do to help get your voice back.
(Updated 19th July 2022)
What is happening when you lose your voice?
The tissue that covers your vocal folds has become inflamed or swollen.
Your vocal folds can’t close properly because of the inflammation and so you aren’t able to create sound effectively, if at all.
You may also have muscle tension in surrounding muscles that is contributing to your voice loss or lack of function.
How did you lose your voice?
Here are a few possible reasons:
- You may have an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold, cough, bronchitis, laryngitis or sinusitis.
- Seasonal allergies are causing sinus drainage which triggers excessive throat clearing and laryngitis.
- Overuse or poor vocal technique (both singing and speaking!). For example, talking for long periods (teaching, call centre, frontline staff), speaking loudly (over music at ‘da’ club), yelling at events, overdoing it in rehearsals, practices or on stage if you are struggling with the sound or monitoring plus singing with poor vocal technique.
- If you have ongoing issues with hoarseness or voice loss, you may have callous-like growths called nodules on your folds that are making it hard for your voice to create sound consistently and efficiently. If this is happening, you should see your Doctor and get a referral additional to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist or Laryngologist for a check up.
Here are my tips on how to get your voice back:
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor so please always consult with your medical professional if you are unsure about any remedy, natural or otherwise, before treating yourself!
1. Vocal Health Check-Up
If you have a voice issue it pays to see an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor or Laryngologist that specialises in singing voices, for a consultation and regular check-ups.
2. Avoid Voice Problems
Caring for your voice on a daily basis and getting vocal coaching to learn singing (and speaking!) techniques that support your style.
3. Vocal Rest
When I get artists calling me for vocal rescue advice, my first suggestion is to not sing and get vocal rest.
It may be hard when you have gigs lined up, but you need to consider the long-term health of your voice.
One missed performance now can potentially trigger a year of enforced vocal rest or vocal rehabilitation if you push through.
My mantra is “If it hurts, don’t do it!”
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Drinking enough water to keep your body hydrated and then adding topical hydration by steaming will help fast track the healing process but should be a part of your daily vocal care routine.
You can work out how much water you need to drink that’s personalised to you by using this calculation:
(0.03) x (your body weight in kgs) = amount of water in litres required daily.
This is an athletes formula (singers ARE athletes to me!), so it’s at the high end of the hydration scale.
You may meet your hydration target with nutrition and steaming, however, especially when unwell, aim for this amount of water.
5. Safely treat your voice with natural remedies
- Although not proven scientifically, well known go-to’s like Active Manuka Honey (UMF 10+) are fantastic. A teaspoon straight in your mouth or in a warm drink provides an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory boost.
- Drinking liquorice and ginger tea (use shavings of real ginger and steep in hot water for a few minutes) has the same antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as Manuka honey.
- Avoid green tea with caffeine or any herbal tea that is caffeinated as that can have a drying effect on your voice. If you must drink tea (or coffee for that matter), drink an additional glass of water (above and beyond your daily intake) for every cup of green tea/coffee you consume.
- A daily supplement with Vitamin C, echinacea and garlic are great as preventative aids.
- Salt gargle – this will help to fend off any bacteria in your mouth and upper throat. Put teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for 30 seconds as often as needed to soothe and moisturise your mouth and throat.
- Nasal Irrigation for sinus and allergy issues. This involves flushing your nasal passage with a saline solution to eliminate congestion and allergens. You can do this on a daily basis as part of your ongoing vocal care.
- Avoid any throat or nasal sprays that numb or are antiseptic as they are super drying. Numbing will stop the pain and you may end up singing through it due to not feeling the pain when you should be resting! You can do a salt gargle or nasal irrigation instead.
- Avoid acidic or spicy foods to eliminate triggering reflux which can cause digestive acids to move up your esophagus and damage your vocal folds.
6. Vocal Exercises
Although you do want to rest your voice, it is still good to stretch your vocal folds and keep some movement happening in the larynx.
You can use gentle or silent Sirens to help to keep your vocal folds in action and stretched without making a sound.
A great tension release exercise is the “sob” technique. It helps to lower your larynx and release any tension, especially if you have been singing high pitches and your larynx has been in a high position.
See a vocal coach for help with these techniques.
Side note: You can get a massage on your larynx/throat area. It’s called Laryngeal massage. You can do it yourself or get a specialist to do it for you.
Extra preventative measures
1. Check your medications
Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking as they may be affecting your voice. Even natural herbs and remedies can impact on your voice so do some research on what you plan to take.
2. Check your diet
As mentioned above, avoiding certain acidic or spicy foods can help to limit reflux and the vocal damage that occurs because of it.
You may also find avoiding dairy or certain foods that trigger you specifically, can help to get your voice back more quickly.
The amount of time it takes to get your voice back will differ from person to person. Try these tips but please see a doctor if you still have no voice after 48 hours.
Talk to your doctor or a specialist if any vocal problems persist for two days or longer or are recurring.
Do you have any great go-to remedies for when you need to get your voice back?
Share them below!
Wishing you all the best in vocal health!