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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

I want to sing again

08/04/2009

Question:

My question is concerning my vocal cords. I have been singing since I was about 7 years old, now Im 27 and a year ago I started having problems with my singing voice. I have "coughing fits", I thought that it was connected to my sinus allergies, but the cough does not go away after my sinuses clear up. I still have to clear my throat often and I can`t sing now, my voice cracks badly and I can`t sing on key. I have not yet contacted my primary physician, can you assist?

Answer:

The most common cause of coughing, that also affects the voice, is laryngeal damage due to reflux or allergies or both. Heartburn is caused by acid attacking the lining of the esophagus. However, the lining of the esophagus is much thicker than the lining of the larynx; thus many times, the acid will cause laryngeal disease without causing heartburn. Symptoms of laryngeal disease (also known as laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR) are coughing, a feeling that something is stuck in your throat, hoarseness, thick mucous, frequent throat clearing... Our current management is to visualize the vocal folds to see if there is laryngeal damage consistent with reflux or allergies. If there is, we treat the reflux and often also use voice therapy. If that does not work, we may consider allergy testing. I would suggest that you see an otolaryngologist who specializes in voice.

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Response by:

Siddarth M Khosla, MD Siddarth M Khosla, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati