Can't Get Your Voice Back After Having Been Sick?
I am going to my share my own experience with this. I've gotten a lot of questions regarding this issue because this is the time of year when many of us fall ill. So I want to post a possible answer to long-term laryngitis if you've been sick and it's not going away.
This post is based on my own experience. It is a little-known fact that 80% of all singers suffer from varying degrees of acid reflux because of the use of our diaphragms -- so much more use than most any other group of people.
A few years back, I got sinusitis and bronchitis. Laryngitis set in but that wasn't unusual with these infections, always gone within a week so I wasn't worried. But this time out, my voice wasn't coming back after 2 weeks. I went to 2 ENT doctors on my insurance plan only to find out that I seemed to know more than they did about the voice. After one month and still no singing voice, I finally decided to screw the insurance problem (HMO) and cough up the $$ for the best laryngologist I knew of in Los Angeles.
It was with this man I had my AH HA moments. What he told me about my problem I just "knew" this to be the truth for me. He'd taken one look down my throat and literally bolted backwards, "OMG, you do know you have been allergic to most foods since you were a baby!" Yes, my mom can tell horror stories about it. I was suffering from severe acid reflux just because of my allergies to foods. However, back then, there wasn't medication for such a problem. Nor was technology what it is today to have been able to diagnose it. This left me with no alternative but to deal with it.
Periodically throughout my career I'd get hoarse and fear it was faulty technique (quite a fear when you are the teacher), but then my voice would always come back within a day or two.This continued to frighten me every time it happened but not until I lost my singing voice for more than a week did I become willing enough, and scared enough, to do something about it. This time out, I just knew something was seriously wrong . I could no longer cope with the denial or the fear. I became willing to go to any lengths to get this fixed.
Acid reflux is caused by a weakened sphincter muscle to the stomach that when digesting food in the stomach is not supposed to relax so much that the pepsin and acid starts seeping back up your esophagus, as far up as through the cords and into the nasal passages. Many wake up in the mornings, hacking, clearing, and blowing, thinking they may be at the onset of a cold only to find out that later in the day they are perfectly fine. When you lay down to rest, this is when it can get even worse, because that already weakened sphincter muscle relaxes as your whole body does the same. During the night, even more acid can start seeping back up the esophagus. This is why it is suggested you eat 2-3 hours before going to bed . It is also suggested you not eat anything 2-3 hours before singing/doing a gig if you have a reflux problem. Hydration with water is also extremely important-- as much as you can (I take 8 gulps at a time or I won't drink as much as I need). Water helps the mucus get moving
When the cords get burned from acid, the body produces an abundance of mucus to try to protect them. This is a natural function. That mucus is trying to fight off what's wrong and runs to the rescue because it thinks you are sick. If reflux goes undiagnosed for a long time, the body will continue to try to fight it off. This fight can eventually weaken the immune system.You might find yourself getting sick again because of it.
I found out that when I got sick, my body produced more histamine than most. Apparently, this wreaks havoc with swelling because of acid reflux ,as do some antibiotics. I was so desperate I even allowed one doctor to give me cortisone in the hopes that it would take down the swelling. This only made it even worse! Why? I was told by the good Doc that for people with reflux, cortisone is the worst thing you can do because it creates even more acid, even more swelling. Great, finding all of this out had obviously put me in a no-win circle of a situation. Thank God I went to this Dr.
I was told I could be cured but that it might take 4 months -- 4 months????? This was news I did NOT want to hear!
If you ask other teachers, some have homeopathic remedies that really do work -- but they did not work for me. Because of my food problem, in that first month, I had to take 3 times the prescription dose of Protonix to stop what was happening. Since I now knew what was wrong and had been wrong all my life, I began to furiously work on restoring my voice with vocalises while continuing to take my medication as prescribed. I checked in with the Doc every week. After 4 months, my voice did come back and because of the meds and rehab I did - when my voice came back it came back THE BEST IT'S EVER BEEN -- even better than when I was a teen!!
My food allergies still have taking one pill a night, but my voice is ALWAYS there for me (every single day) and I have not gotten physically ill from flu or anything else since. Having this happen turned out to be a blessing and the best thing that could have ever happened. After a good doctor visit and diagnosis, I assure my students that when their voice returns it will come back even better than it was before. Even if they find that hard to believe, I ask for them to believe that I believe it for them.
My best advice if your voice isn't coming back after two weeks is to seek out a good doctor who can identify the problems(s). It may not be acid at all, in which case it becomes even more important to get what is wrong diagnosed. If you don't know of a good doctor, ask around. It may take a couple of tries before you find the right one, but you will know when that happens. If what the doctor says rings true to you, it is the truth for you...trust your inner knowing....you found the right Doctor.
Written with Lots of Love and the hope of helping,