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any positive recovery stories after thyroid operation?

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My partner is a singer and is having a hemithyroidectomy performed soon. I've been trying to find anecdotal evidence on the internet of what she can expect to happen to her voice after the operation.

The results so far don't seem positive, many singers commenting on various forums seem to have had their singing voice affected adversely after a thyroid operation.

Singing is her profession and she will be devastated to lose control of her voice.

Has anyone here had a similar procedure done and recovered well from it? My question is loaded for a reason: have read a lot of negative and hope that the positive recoveries just aren't well represented in online discussions.

Thanks for your time!

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Hi -

As a speech pathologist (& singer) I have worked with a good number of people with "collateral damage" to the voice from thyroid surgery.

One of the vocal nerves is located right under the thyroid gland, so even though surgeons generally take care to protect it, sometimes there is unavoidable damage. Usually the nerve is just bruised or stretched and it WILL eventually recover -- but recovery takes time, months, up to a year, because the cells just grow back very slowly.

If this kind of problem occurs, the voice is typically weak, effortful, breathy, and/or restricted to low pitch range.

In most cases, speech therapy with a voice specialist can be of great help. I have helped people to regain full voice use including falsetto/head voice. So YES there can be positive recovery. BUT one must be very patient.

If thyroid hormones are also unstable after the surgery, it can be tricky to figure out what symptoms are caused by mechanical changes (nerve) versus chemical (feeling depressed or not-like-myself). Or, a temporary hormonal depression can increase worry and blues about voice changes even if both will prove to be temporary.

Occasionally the nerve is permanently injured. Much depends on individual anatomy, and the detailed "geography" can't be known until the surgery is underway. so your friend needs to know this is a possibility -- but not the most likely outcome.

Strongest recommendations are to be sure the surgeon knows that she is a singer and that preservation of the laryngeal nerve is extra-extra important; consider getting a second opinion about the necessity for having surgery; and start NOW identifying a voice-savvy speech therapist who can provide rehab after the acute post-surgical period.

If I can help in any way, please feel free to contact me directly: joanna@voiceofyourlife.com

all the best to you both --

Joanna Cazden

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Hi Joanna, thank you for writing such a detailed response.

The ENT surgeon is experienced and aware that she's a singer and how important it is - that is some comfort. Surgery seems unavoidable as it is a large "suspicious" nodule, she doesn't want to risk leaving it be.

She has learned to cope while singing with the large nodule present over the last few years. We presume she might have to retrain herself to sing without it afterwards.

In terms of recovery during the acute post-op stage, she is planning to not talk at all for a few weeks.. Is this the right thing to do?

She has a gig booked four months after surgery, thinking now it might be a bit soon to start putting pressure on her voice.

We're going to follow your advice re finding a good speech therapist.

Thanks again

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Hi -

regarding vocal rest immediately after surgery: the surgeon will advise her if this is necessary and for how long. because the surgery is on the outside of voice box, rather than inside, it's a different situation than when people get nodules or polyps removed and have to absolutely shut-up during acute healing.

regarding the gig four months out: it is very hard to estimate recovery time in advance. If there is some nerve damage, however, recovery will probably be slow. I would advise postponing the gig if possible. The risks are not so much about hurting the voice, but of not sounding her best in public, and carrying the mental pressure/anxiety about it while medical and hormone status are already unsteady. 6 or 8 months might be safer, but much depends on the exact surgical outcome. So your friend might wait until after the surgery to make this decision.

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soundwave, not my story but may be something that will cheer her up, take a search for Gerson Mesquita - Tenor on youtube. I think there are some cool recordings of Nessun Dorma and Remember that he did after the procedure and really, its beyond good.

He went through the same and is still one hell of a singer and voice teacher. If you cant find the videos/recordings let me know and I will link here, surely will cheer her up.

Note: he also said that he had to recover and work a lot for it, exactly as Joanna described.

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Thanks JoannaC.. she's made peace with the fact that its happening now and will hope for the best and take things as they come.

Thanks for the encouragement Felipe, I'll see what I can find of him on the net.

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