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4: Permanent Vocal Damage – Singer Solutions

Singing Solution with Mark Baxter

Mark Baxter teaches you how to spot the difference between real warning signals and singer paranoia about vocal damage.

Vocal Damage

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In This Episode

Singers often come to Mark Baxter with extremely raspy voices. Mark asks them, “How did your voice get like that?” They reply, “Oh, I don’t know I was just singing one day, and I noticed it was a little rough.” After hearing their history, Mark always discovers that vocal damage is never the result of just one day or one song.

These singers ignored warning signs over a long period of time. It is ironic that singers who feel invincible are the ones who most likely to experience vocal damage. Singers who fear permanent vocal damage, are at a very low risk of experiencing it.

There are real pathologies that can affect your voice, but hearing the term “permanent damage” being thrown around irresponsibly creates unnecessary fear and insecurity.

Any part of your body can suffer from bleeding, swelling, bruises, infections and calluses. These are rarely permanent. You almost always heal from these. The same is true for your voice.

” – Itis” means swelling

Laryngitis simply means swelling in the larynx (voice box). Swelling makes it hard for your folds to vibrate, and makes you sound hoarse.

Swelling in your vocal mechanism is most often caused by friction. This usually means you are pushing too hard when singing. Other causes are digestive acid reflux and infection.

Singers must see this hoarseness as an early warning sign. Without adjustments to technique or lifestyle or the treatment of an infection – the vocal condition will worsen.

Calluses, blisters and bleeding 

A node is a callus on your vocal folds, which disturbs their vibratory pattern, making it feel more difficult to sing and sound how you normally sound.

A polyp is a blister, and has fluid in it. It can wiggle when you sing which creates inconsistency in your voice. With a polyp, your voice works then fails without warning.

When these happen, it means you have been ignoring warning signs for some time.

A strain is a pull or a sting felt when singing. This means that you have pulled a strap-like muscle that holds larynx in place. You can feel pain in this case, as it is a muscle, and not the vocal folds themselves.

A hemorrhage is a burst blood vessel, just like you can see in your eyes, when they become blood-shot. Sometimes a hard cough or forceful scream causes a bleed. In this case, one fold will shut down. There will be no pain, but it will cause an odd sensation.

How to recover 

Some of these injuries may seem bad, but none are the end of the line for your voice.

To heal and avoid another polyp or node, you must have a change of behaviour. Rest alone does not challenge the behaviour and/or lifestyle that caused the vocal pathology.

Voice therapists and knowledgeable singing teachers can teach you how to get the sound you want in a healthy way. If caught early enough – the node or polyp will dissipate.

In this episode, Mark explains each pathology and the usual course of healing, whether, rest, therapy or surgery.

He stresses that vocal therapy puts you in the driver’s seat of your vocal condition and your vocal destiny. It helps you become accountable to your voice.

Permanent damage

In extreme cases, Mark explains that permanent damage is possible. Severe vocal pathologies can leave leave permanent scarring or an indentation on your vocal fold, even once they have healed. Other forces, such as cancer, can irrevocably damage a voice.

Take control

Don’t fear that which you can not control. Instead, respect hoarseness, fight paranoia with knowledge, and develop technique that keeps you in charge.

Mark teaches that all singers must balance their physical condition with their desire to express.

Don’t let one cost you the other!

Mark Baxter has worked as a coach with Aerosmith, Journey, Goo Goo Dolls — and many others. He is the author of The Rock-n-Roll Singer’s Survival, creator of The Singer’s Toolbox instructional DVD, Sing Like an Idol instructional CD. Mark operates vocal studios in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and online via Skype.
You can read more of Mark’s work here.

  • Kathy Coneys Alexander

    This podcast gives sound information without encouraging fear and paranoia. Every singer should listen to this!

  • Carl Wehden

    Thanks this podcast is a great one, have watched your videos for a long time and have always been a fan of your work, Carl

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t think I have ever commented on something like this before, but I just wanted to stop briefly and thank you for such a wonderful podcast! I listened to only this one episode (4. permanent vocal damage), and was really impressed by your knowledge, your kind manner, and your concise and accessible delivery. I wish every podcast in the world could be this high quality! Thanks again–

  • Grant Daniel Reed

    THANK YOU so much for your help. Your audio discussion is helping me to work through a recent singing concern.
    Best, :)
    Grant Daniel Reed