How exactly does one 'lose' their voice?
The respiratory system is beautifully complex with many different factors at play to keep us breathing and speaking. The nose, mouth and lungs all work in tandem to generate the force necessary to drive air past the vocal cords, located in the trachea, more specifically in the larynx (voice box).
The vocal cords are two bands of smooth muscle tissue, the size and shape of which determine the person's voice. Male's tend to have longer and looser vocal cords, producing a deeper pitch due to the vibrations produced when air passes over the muscular bands.
Loss of one's voice is more specifically known as aphonia, and could occur when the tissue of the cords suffer direct damage due to a variety of conditions, or signals travelling the nerves supplying the vocal muscles are impaired.
What are some of the causes of aphonia?
- Smoking. Unsurprisingly, cigarettes contain a host of irritants that travel through the respiratory passage, causing inflammation throughout. The smoke can dry the mucous membranes and inflammation of the vocal cords can eventually lead to the formation of scar tissue, permanently altering your voice and causing it to become hoarse and raspy. With multiple carcinogens, smoking can result in throat cancer and potentially require a stoma to allow you to breathe as the tumours grow to block the airway.
- Laryngitis. This is simply swelling of the larynx or voice box resulting in aphonia. Laryngitis on its own is simply a symptom of another condition and typically heals on its own with rest. However, it could be related to a bacterial or viral infection and therefore may require medical attention.
- Overuse. While we most often think of singers as those prone to overuse of their voice, other professions prone to damage could include educators, coaches, and factory workers. Overuse may result in polyps, blister-like bumps that some researchers believe form as a result of local bleeding on the cord.
- Thyroid concerns. When the thyroid is enlarged, as with the formation of something known as a goiter, it places pressure on the trachea. This displaces the vocal cords, causing changes in voice and potential aphonia if the goiter becomes extremely large.
- Acid reflux. When the hydrochloric acid from the stomach enters the esophagus, it can burn and damage the tissue as it lacks the thick protective mucous coating of the stomach. This can lead to significant damage of the larynx as the acid erodes the vocal cords. However this would take an extended period of time before you started noticing changes.
- Medication. These contribute to a hoarse, raw feeling in the throat depending on the class of medications as they all have different actions. Medications such as antihistamines and diuretics carry the risk of drying out the mucous membranes as they encourage fluids to leave the body. Antipsychotics can induce laryngeal dystonia where the vocal muscles spasm, causing a quivering or breathy pattern to the voice. The extra effort to speak clearly may cause irritation or hoarseness in the larynx.
What are some of the steps we can take to keep our voices in tip top shape?
- Aside from the obvious like reducing cigarette intake, it's important to determine if there's ways to reduce vocal strain.
- The more hydrated you keep the body, the easier it is to produce thin mucous to coat the overworked vocal muscles. Keeping in mind that water is the best as fluids in the form of black tea or coffee actually dehydrate the muscle tissue.
- If there's any potential upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) going on, the classic salt water gargle was put to the test in a study of 387 otherwise healthy volunteers. Gargling with salt water significantly reduced the number of URTI episodes, and a little goes a long way! You may find relief with only half a teaspoon in a cup of water.
Give your voice a rest. Like any muscle, if you continue to exercise it past a certain point, you risk inducing injury because of the extensive mechanical stress on the tissue.
What are some ways to soothe the inflammation in my throat?
We're inclined to use Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray to soothe symptoms of the throat. This travel-sized companion can be taken with you on public transit, in crowded areas, and especially on flights.
With a long nozzle, this spray delivers a powerful jet of protection and relief to the back of the throat to create a buffer against pathogens and allergens.
The main medicinal ingredients include Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) and Sage (Salvia officinalis).
Our preparation of Echinacea has demonstrated antiviral and antibacterial properties, in addition to the anti-inflammatory compounds concentrated in the root of the plant. Sage is also one of the most potent anti-microbial herbs with additional anti-inflammatory benefits.
A randomized, double-blind study conducted in 2006 compared Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray to a pharmaceutical spray known as Collunosol, a combination of chlorhexidine and lidocaine. They followed 133 patients with acute pharyngitis or tonsillitis with the herbal spray matching the efficacy of the pharmaceutical spray!
So, when you've spent the day overusing your voice, or feel a tickle in the throat, be sure to have your Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray close at hand.