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The Best Way to Recover?

Dear Leontine,

I had vocal cord surgery to remove a cyst recently. Unfortunately, I felt I had no other option as my voice quality had been severely impacted and the cyst did not shrink with other types of therapy. My ENT has advised me to start speaking again very gradually and after some time, attempt singing again (also gradually). I wanted to see what you had to say as a Vocal Coach, having worked with recovering singers. Firstly, how long after such a surgery would you recommend starting to sing again? Secondly, I have been inhaling with steam 2-3 times a day. What is the best way to inhale? Through the nose (as suggested by the nurses at the hospital) or through the mouth? Any other tips you may have to ensure a speedy recovery will also be appreciated…

Kind regards,


Dear Priya,

I think you ought to follow the advice of your ENT surgeon on the timing of returning to voice use.

I would like to ask you whether your surgeon was a specialist laryngologist who works with singers, or a more general ENT consultant.

If he or she was not a specialist laryngologist, I think you should make an appointment with one as soon as possible, so that they can guide you correctly post surgery.

Steaming should be done through the mouth, not the nose.

The point of steaming is that it is the most efficient way to directly hydrate the vocal folds; this is best done through the mouth, as the vocal folds are closer to it!

Regarding starting singing again: once you get the all-clear from a laryngologist specialising in singers; singing is probably as important as speaking – it is a very direct way of working the vocal folds and surrounding mechanisms.

Exercises such as sirens are very useful as you are working the folds very safely on a thin edge, and keeping them flexible.

How quickly you progress would have to be determined in consultation with an experienced vocal coach who should preferably be in touch with your laryngologist so that they can work together.

I always refer back to the examining laryngologist when working with singers post -op and tend also to make use of the services of other experienced colleagues.

Pooling expertise is always more powerful and effective.

Good luck. The results tend to be very good so feel positive about it. Just do not misuse your voice in any way: no screaming and as little coughing and throat clearing as possible please.