A man sings in the winter. His voice is not hoarse.

It’s a common lament among singers: you have a number of performances coming up, but your voice is starting to get raspy. Should you sing if your voice is getting hoarse?

What is hoarseness?

Hoarseness is a common term used to describe a strained, raspy, or breathy voice, associated with changes in loudness or pitch, that requires increased effort to use. Hoarseness can be caused by swelling due to overuse or abuse of the vocal cords. It can also be caused by the formation of benign lesions such as nodules, polyps, or cysts. Hoarseness may also be a result of vocal fold weakness, which can happen after a common cold or the flu.

If you keep singing while your voice is hoarse, you will only put more strain on your voice, since more effort is needed to make your vocal cords properly produce sound. This can make the hoarseness worse, and can even cause you to lose your voice completely. If you keep trying to sing through this hoarseness, you will only create further strain and swelling of your vocal cords, until your cords stop working completely.

S. Brett Heavner, MD

“For performers, one of the hardest things to do is say ‘no, I can’t sing today,’” CEENTA Otolaryngologist S. Brett Heavner, MD, said. “In the long run, ‘no’ may be the most important word if you plan to continue performing.”

How do I treat hoarseness?

So what should you do to help your voice recover? Follow these steps to help bring your voice back up to full strength:

  • Maintain good voice techniques – maintain proper posture, relax your neck muscles, and breathe properly
  • Warm up and cool down your voice before and after performances
  • Treat allergies, acid reflux, and other conditions that might affect your voice
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get voice therapy if necessary
  • Rest your voice – don’t be afraid to say no if you’re overextending yourself

If you have hoarseness that’s lasted more than two weeks, you have pain, difficulty swallowing, or a loss of singing range it’s important to see a doctor. These could be a sign of a more serious condition.

Treating your voice well is the best way to ensure your singing career is a long one. Making sure you don’t sing when you’re hoarse is a good step down that path.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment with a CEENTA ENT doctor or voice & swallowing specialist, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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