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Falsetto/Head Register completely lost: reprimanding vocal traumas

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Jeremy Mohler
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Hey guys, so in the last few months with the help of our very own sexy Swedish bastard Jens I've made a lot of progress in honing my vocal technique and even more excitedly, my falsetto register!  In days before I had completely abandoned the M2 register thinking it was a useless party trick and that if you pulled chest long enough you'd start developing "Real head voice."  Obviously, I'm a complete jackass for thinking that but my bro Jens luckily had the knowledge to convince me of the true nature of falsetto and how it was a necessary component to seriously train in balance with the entire voice.

So, fast forward to last monday, in the middle of the night I came down with horrible stomach cramps and could not keep any food or liquid down.  It turned out my intestines had become partially blocked due to previous complications of a major surgery I had in 2011.  So, all of sudden here I am spending an entire night forcing myself to throw up to relieve the built up pressure from the blockage.  For somewhere around seven hours I continuously spit my guts up in the most horrible way you could concerning vocal health.  This went on for quite some time before I decided to call 911 on myself and get help.  Upon entering the hospital with an already completely destroyed voice (Seriously, I had lost my voice more than I ever had before) they decided the best method of treatment would be to put a three inch plastic tube down my nose and into my stomach for a week.  Unfortunately, not only was this tube as painful as it sounds but it was also made my throat 100% burning soar and prevented any chance of vocalizing.  

Now, the tube has just come out which is an AMAZING relief but as I try my first vocalizations since the incident I noticed my falsetto register is COMPLETELY gone.  Before I came in, it was soaring, easy, quite pleasant and was just starting to pick up some nice twang potential thanks to Jen's great instruction.  Now, my question to the vocal experts, what would be the best method of going about healing this as soon as possible?  When it comes back will it be at square one again or will it return to the same strength it was before I had this vocal trauma? Has anyone else abused their voice before to the point where their falsetto register was lost completely?  

Thank you and god speed!!

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Jeremy,  I am so sorry to hear about your trauma! I am certainly no doctor so this would just be an intuitive suggestion and there are probably more people that can offer up some input as well. I would suggest for a week just rest your voice like you were sick with strep throat or a similar throat type virus just hydrate by drinking lots of water and try not to push your voice and really just let any irritation to the throat area heal and relax. I have had times where my allergies caused sinus drainage over my vocal cords which caused me to lose parts of my register even though I was unaware of the drainage (no stuffy nose etc) it went on for like 2 months until I went to a doctor and got Flonase and Allergy meds etc. I know this in not allergy related I am only saying that after I took the meds etc it took awhile for my throat to heal up after 2 months of irritation. But after that my voice started to come back 100 percent. So, I don't believe you have had any permanent damage. How is your speaking voice?

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Jens, I am so sorry to hear about your trauma! I am certainly no doctor so this would just be an intuitive suggestion and there are probably more people that can offer up some input as well. I would suggest for a week just rest your voice like you were sick with strep throat or a similar throat type virus just hydrate by drinking lots of water and try not to push your voice and really just let any irritation to the throat area heal and relax. I have had times where my allergies caused sinus drainage over my vocal cords which caused me to lose parts of my register even though I was unaware of the drainage (no stuffy nose etc) it went on for like 2 months until I went to a doctor and got Flonase and Allergy meds etc. I know this in not allergy related I am only saying that after I took the meds etc it took awhile for my throat to heal up after 2 months of irritation. But after that my voice started to come back 100 percent. So, I don't believe you have had any permanent damage. How is your speaking voice?

Jens is fine!  It's me!  That crazy bastard takes credit for everything hahahaha. ;)

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Thanks for your advice though!  My speaking voice actually feels fine, my chest is a bit shaky but feels very good and natural.  Only problem is when I get above C4/try to access falsetto at all.  If I attempt falsetto register nothing but a strained, pinchy air sound comes.  It's very sad.  

 

On a side note: do you guys think it's better I completely rest my voice from making any vocal sounds at all or keep doing light exercises in the parts of my voice that are still comfortable instead?

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Lol, sorry about that, I fixed it. I would just stay hydrated and give your voice basic rest. You may want to try it out once a day to see if its responding yet. I wouldn't worry though, If your speaking voice is fine I would say you probably just have irritation and maybe some swelling that needs to come down to allow things to vibrate nice an easy.

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Oh man, any illness coming close to the voice can be rough. My advice, is seriously take it slow and rest. When I got my nerve damage thing. It was fairly close to an episode of laryngitis which is one of multiple factors may have been involved. I gave it like a weeks rest, but it may have not been enough. I might have went back to singing all out too soon. But I'm pretty much done with could of, would of, what if.

But I have researched this a bit now. As far as I understand you want to test the waters and gradually increase the load on the voice. Keep an eye on the voice, not paranoid (that won't help either) and  it's good that your speaking voice is working. I wouldn't advise total silence either. From what I've researched, there is a time after injury, infection, or any kind of possible damage, where the nervous system is increasingly likely to malfunction. There's always a feedback loop occurring in your body between various nerves and the central nervous system and you want to maintain regularity in those loops, when you can. If you went mute for too long, you'd be changing that feedback loop at vulnerable time where something will interpret the new strangeness and oddity.

But at the some time, you don't want to be pushing physiologically and risking injury. So ease into reuse. And for things you can do healthily, do those things. I was actually thinking about talking to you sometime soon, seeing how your was doing voice was doing. I had a few more ideas to show you, as to how to get into a headier position I've had time both to grow my own, and reflect on your situation and compare notes. I had no idea what you going through. That sucks.

Take some time heal. Do the best you can to keep some form of regularity while not physiologically pushing injury by overexerting what you're currently capable of. Keep a positive attitude. That's your best and most likely you'll ride it out and be stronger than before.

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Oh man, any illness coming close to the voice can be rough. My advice, is seriously take it slow and rest. When I got my nerve damage thing. It was fairly close to an episode of laryngitis which is one of multiple factors may have been involved. I gave it like a weeks rest, but it may have not been enough. I might have went back to singing all out too soon. But I'm pretty much done with could of, would of, what if.

But I have researched this a bit now. As far as I understand you want to test the waters and gradually increase the load on the voice. Keep an eye on the voice, not paranoid (that won't help either) and  it's good that your speaking voice is working. I wouldn't advise total silence either. From what I've researched, there is a time after injury, infection, or any kind of possible damage, where the nervous system is increasingly likely to malfunction. There's always a feedback loop occurring in your body between various nerves and the central nervous system and you want to maintain regularity in those loops, when you can. If you went mute for too long, you'd be changing that feedback loop at vulnerable time where something will interpret the new strangeness and oddity.

But at the some time, you don't want to be pushing physiologically and risking injury. So ease into reuse. And for things you can do healthily, do those things. I was actually thinking about talking to you sometime soon, seeing how your was doing voice was doing. I had a few more ideas to show you, as to how to get into a headier position I've had time both to grow my own, and reflect on your situation and compare notes. I had no idea what you going through. That sucks.

Take some time heal. Do the best you can to keep some form of regularity while not physiologically pushing injury by overexerting what you're currently capable of. Keep a positive attitude. That's your best and most likely you'll ride it out and be stronger than before.

Thanks sincerely for your advice and words of encouragement, it makes me feel much better.  So far my head register is still completely blown out but my chest/speaking voice feels fine enough.  I'm spending about 30 minutes a day doing some really light (But non breathy) phonations to at least keep my pitch and ability to hold an unwavering tone up.  Perhaps when I get out of the hospital we can try and skype again to exchange any new progresses/ideas.  Peace out brother.  

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Thanks sincerely for your advice and words of encouragement, it makes me feel much better.  So far my head register is still completely blown out but my chest/speaking voice feels fine enough.  I'm spending about 30 minutes a day doing some really light (But non breathy) phonations to at least keep my pitch and ability to hold an unwavering tone up.  Perhaps when I get out of the hospital we can try and skype again to exchange any new progresses/ideas.  Peace out brother.  

Yeah, give it time. In some ways it might be counter-intuitive. Patience and a degree of calmness, while being responsible and aware, is easier said than done, when you're hurt, but it's gonna be your best bet. As far as I understand there is a multi faceted protective strategy:

Protect your body (don't push risk injury, allow healing)

Protect your nervous system (keep regular the connections running and maintained)

Protect your mind/brain in general. People often think people 'mind' and that as being separate from the body (dualism). But scientific evidence heavily suggests that the mind is physical function of the brain and interacts with your nervous system. The theory being, the most positive state you can your mind in right now, the easier it is for your brain to maintain regular functioning, without having messages hitting the panic button from the functional areas of the brain. That's vastly oversimplifying complex neurological interactions, but it should do for now.

If you take every protective step you can take, and somehow, something changes, and in a way that is not good. You professionals out, see if there is anything they can do.

The cool thing is, if you take this thing by the horns. keeping yourself as healthy as you can and taking professional help when you can. You'll have less coulda, woulda, what if kind of concerns regardless of what happens than I did when I didn't research or planning or anything. I'd be better equipped today, to handling a new situation. I'm glad if it can help in any way.

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Wait a minute, so, you are still in the hospital and just got the entubation tube removed and you would wonder why you don't have full and complete control of your voice just yet?

Really?

Good point there. If this is a very recent thing there is likely inflammation. But yeah, slow down. Whatever effect this has had or will have, will take time to reveal itself and work through, and unless  you've been in the hospital for a long time, it's probably not even close to enough time. And a lot of times in hospitals they have people on meds that might not help people think clearly as well.

I know I would get pretty obsessive with singing especially when I was younger and hoping to be a performer and I always had a rushed mindset. Being in a rush, doesn't really make singing go much faster. It makes it more reckless. If at all possible, you might have to tame some urgency to sing.

A patient mindset, being a bit less rushed, is also healthy and protective, but to tell you the truth, I remember what it was like when I was younger and I don't know how much I could have or would have listened to that as it felt like, go, go, go, go. I could almost picture just getting a tube pulled out and immediately wanting to go for it.

It's that urgency, the fire. You want to go, and I love it music. But it can be self destructive.

 

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I am glad others got my gist. I thought later that I may have seemed brusque or uncaring. Quite the opposite.

Listen to your doctors. Listen to Killer, who has personal experience with vocal trauma. And, if sexy Swedish bastard Jens has insight, listen to him. You will heal quickly but I don't think you are ready for "Nessun Dorma" while still in the recovery room.

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What Ron said. Jeremy be patient. I mean its a bit too much to ask from your body to belt C5 days or two you had giant tube rubbing insise your larynx.

Baahahahah my body isn't ready to belt C5s on my peak physical days. :) 

Wait a minute, so, you are still in the hospital and just got the entubation tube removed and you would wonder why you don't have full and complete control of your voice just yet?

Really?

Point taken but you have to understand music is my number one joy and passion in life.  I've never gone more than 12 hours without practicing the "holy trinity" of guitar, vocals, and piano.  Singing is the one form of expression I love more than anything.  I am not implying that despite my medical incident that I will be belting all day just to hold on to that good ole' loving feeling.  No, I am simply asking what kind of long term repercussions (if any) can i expect from this sort of voice loss?  And, what would be the healthiest things I can do in recovery to make the maximum effort of being back in good vocal health.  I miss my baby, I spent a lot of time getting her from being an unresponsive B$*!(@$! to a sweet and reliable companion... and now she is gone :'(  

Thank you all for your replies, sincerely!

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Begin first with a conprehensive exam from a physician who has professional singer patients.  I could recommend a great one in N.Y.

I've learned that just selecting an competent E.N.T. may not work. You want a physician who specializes in laryngeal and vocal fold issues.

Ask if the doctor is well versed with singers. Tell the doctor you would like a photo you can take with you.

Get your folds and the entire glottis looked at in detail and photographed. 

Make sure there is no scarring or hemmoraging and all the rest...

That's first as far as I'm concerned. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    Begin first with a conprehensive exam from a physician

who has professional singer patients

.  I could recommend a great one in N.Y.

I've learned that just selecting an competent E.N.T. may not work. You want a physician who specializes in laryngeal and vocal fold issues.

Ask if the doctor is well versed with singers. Tell the doctor you would like a photo you can take with you.

Get your folds and the entire glottis looked at in detail and photographed. 

Make sure there is no scarring or hemmoraging and all the rest...

That's first as far as I'm concerned.

This can be a good thing to do. But it would take a long time to schedule this appointment, and in the meantime, healing will need to occur.

I've been looking into this procedure a bit more in depth, looked into few studies, and from a few different angles. Hoarseness is experienced in a lot of cases in the speaking voice from 24 hours to a few weeks from people who make a recover. Of course most of them aren't singing C5 so a singer might have a special consideration of what recovery means.

There are cases where longer term issues persist with the hoarseness, and a speech therapist helped quite a few. And finally, as much as it would be nice to state otherwise, there are cases of real damage (scar tissue, strangely a dislocation of muscles).

But basically, if you are believing voice is destroyed, and freaking out and sending your brain into red alert mode, constantly fixating and freaking out. You'll be a lot more vulnerable to problems than if you focus on the positives and take things as they come. I find it difficult ot be positive about much of anything without objective evidence, so if Jeremy is similar here is some evidence that I see as positive in your stiuation:

1. You were puking, you had so much damage to the point of having basically no voice at all

2. Someone shoved a tube down the throat (which is pretty intense)

3. After that, your speaking voice was pretty good after that (improvement? healing?).

4. A lot of people have temporary trouble with speaking voice with that procedure alone. I'm sure head voice

5. Falsetto requires the very edges of the vocal folds to vibrate in a controlled way. So temporary inflammation would make that one first thing to go. Since inflammation is very common when having a tube stuck down your throat for a long time. That very likely to be normal, and possibly not even damage at all.   

That appointment can be scheduled. But in the meantime there is a lot that can be done to ensure any healing that is going to occur will do so in the best possible way. Basically the way the body works. skin heals, muscles heal sometimes scar, tendons heal more slowly, ligaments can fail to heal, and nerves can outright fail to heal. But the ENT can't heal what is there right now. And might have a lot of difficulty even measuring what is there when healing hasn't been given any time. A speech therapist would be premature when he doing better than many (most patients) having a tube shoved in there.

If that appointment was scheduled appointment today, it probably won't happen today, and it still wouldn't first steps in recovery. Which is trying to prepare for healing in the meantime. Get your mindset out of the idea that your voice is destroyed, and nurture your voice patiently, slowly and acknowledge that healing has to occur. And part of that is freaking, jumping to conclusions, and catastrophizing.

I'm not a fan of pop psychology. Be positive, focus on positives. I tend towards seeking something more objectively. But this is not a time you want to be panicked or jumping to negative conclusions prematurely. It's another form of rushing. That ability to slow down, it's almost a strategy. If I had a tube down my throat for a week, I'd probably freaking out and thinking the sky is falling too. That's a really crazy experience. The sooner you can revert to a chilled out state, better. All of the evidence I've seen thus far, and while some of it us theoretical, points to having the brain staying in red alert, fight or flight, nuke this thing, or build the bunker cause it's the end of the world, thinking about it like that might likelihood of incomplete healing or a malfunction compared to seeking a positive recovery. If you're a pessimist by nature, or sky is falling kind person, whether that is healthy or not, you can go back to that after really focusing on that positive recovery. I fully understand the causal relationships (and it doesn't appear that scientists either), but statistical evidence shows it might be more likely for things to go awry and I'd error on the side of caution.

Once you're chill, and you want to see what what is going on, to be sure earlier rather than later, you can make that appointment, but try to make the appointment about seeking the most positive recovery you can do rather than verifying the disaster.

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Thank you very much for your advice Daniel, and thank you once again for your thoughtful response Killer.  So far the situation is as followed, I'm going home today (so no more being constrained to the hospital and away from my instruments :) ) and currently I have a shaky but not sore or tonally scarred chest register.  I can take it down to about A2 comfortably and up to a really light D4 and then it cuts out.  I haven't tried belting with it yet as I am going to rest and keep it down to only very light exercises.  

Honestly though, I am quite calm about the situation.  It is definitely a setback but I am just happy my complications from my past surgeries didn't require surgery.  Judging by the quality of my M1 register as of now I feel the recovery time to get my M2 back won't be too long but we will see.   I would like to personally thank everyone for comforting me through this unfortunate issue.  Just coming to this thread and reading your posts has actually been a big help in keeping my mind occupied during the more stressful points of my stay.  So, I thank you all for that sincerely.

If anyone else has any experience, advice, thoughts, etc, please do continue I'd be happy to hear it.  

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   I haven't read the whole post and am sure others have said this.....(I am no doctor by the way:24:)........Others have had laryngitis by just attending a football game and have been told by their doctor/coach/teacher not to use their voice for at least a week.  Give your vocal folds time to heal.......Concentrate on Shredding like Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix or even Stevie Ray Vaughan for  a while...... Let your Guitar and Piano do your singing while you recuperate.....

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All good advice from others here. When I injured my voice through my own stupidity, twice, each time, I spent at least a week not singing and not talking loud. After that, another week or so of falsetto descending slides for no more than ten minutes at a time. 2 maybe 3 times a day. 

Then, back into the swing of things, minus the stupidity that injured me.

 

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I'm sorry, no offense intended, but I think you're a bit foolish for not getting all this checked out by a doctor. 

You might also consider steaming twice a day and staying well hydrated is a given.

 

 

Well, I was just released from the hospital today.  I appreciate your sentiment but the last thing I feel like doing my first day out of there is calling up a doctor and heading in for a laryngoscopy.  I'll definitely consider your steaming tips though as that may be quite nice.

2 weeks rest. then start vocalizing.  do you have a big tour coming up? or performance? then just rest it

Nah, I'm free for two weeks and then I'll be back in college again.  I might delay my return to school depending on my condition but as far as the vocal performance thing goes one class does require I get up and sing so I guess that could be a problem.  However, I do have two weeks to dedicate to resting so hopefully that will be enough.  Thank you very much for your advice Daniel. :)

All good advice from others here. When I injured my voice through my own stupidity, twice, each time, I spent at least a week not singing and not talking loud. After that, another week or so of falsetto descending slides for no more than ten minutes at a time. 2 maybe 3 times a day. 

Then, back into the swing of things, minus the stupidity that injured me.

 

This sounds about right for me too.  Obviously my voice loss was a bit more out of my power but as far as the recovery plan goes I'm with you.  Luckily my voice doesn't feel hoarse or sore at all so maybe I'm just dealing with some swelling and general over use.  If it becomes tender or painful at all to use my voice after a few weeks of genuine rest than I will seek an ENT.  Until then I guess I will just have to quietly sip water in the corner and pine over the tragic loss of my Barry Gibb falsetto.  

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