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Singer's Blog by Jeannie Deva

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Vocal Care Blog Tips Q: If a singer develops nodules or polyps on their vocal cords from overuse, what is the likelihood of recovery and continued success as a vocalist?" Nola

A: To begin with, nodules (nodes) and polyps are not the result of "over-use." These vocal fold maladies derive from misuse. With all the media coverage of famous singers developing nodes or polyps, many have come to believe that this is the inevitable result of singing rock music or using a "belting" style.

It is not true that these maladies are related to a style of music. They are the body's attempt to protect the vocal membrane from the irritation caused by tension and friction. The irritation is created by how you sing not by what you sing. It is best to avoid nodes and polyps altogether by gaining some more understanding of symptoms and preventions.

What are Nodes and Polyps?

Nodes are callous-like swellings that typically form in pairs, on the rim of each vocal fold, at the point where excess friction has been the most severe. Polyps are the loosening and swelling of the vocal folds' mucous membrane. Vocal abuse, misuse and prolonged exposure to some irritant (such as smoking cigarettes or marijuana) have been found to increase the chances of polyps. Here are some of the symptoms which may indicate the presence of nodes or polyps:

Symptoms
  • A breathy, weak, raspy, or hoarse voice quality
  • A change in the baseline vocal pitch with limited vocal range
  • Increased effort and fatigue associated with singing or talking
  • Reduced voice quality and singing endurance
  • Loss of upper registers, and difficulty with precise vocal control
  • Polyps produce persistent hoarseness
A well trained vocal coach can often detect nodes or polyps by listening to the sound of a singer's voice. However, only an otolaryngologist or E.N.T. (Ear-Nose-Throat doctor) or a speech pathologist has the training and equipment to look at the vocal folds to determine with certainty the presence of nodes or polyps.

The above symptoms may also indicate a less serious condition of swollen vocal folds and should be taken as a warning sign. If your vocal folds are only swollen, consider yourself lucky and save your voice by getting some proper voice coaching without delay.

Remedy

Fortunately surgery is the very last resort. The key to recovery involves examining, discovering and relieving tension and excessive friction caused by singing improperly. With true information about how the voice works and then using correct  exercises, you can replace bad habits with the natural, balanced and harmonious actions of your voice.

Singing injury free for long periods is possible if you learn to work with your body and eliminate tension and friction. Nodes and polyps can be prevented, or if you have them, you can recover and usually without surgery through correct voice coaching and therapy. 

Comments

  1. " Viper " on November 24, 2014 at 6:32 PM said:
    Thanks! You are so right on the mark with surgery being the last remedy or fix up... One wants to stay clear away from an operating room table. Your suggestions are SUPERIOR and I look forward to singing healthy :))))
  2. Anonymous on November 25, 2014 at 6:50 AM said:
    what are the exercises to heal polyps? Whwn I went to the ENT they were gone 3 years ago- it seems my voice has not recovered properly- It is very depressing not to be able to sing- I am experiencing all 6 symptoms state in your blog. Please help- I do several of your vocal warm-ups I have purchased the singers guide to a great performance- I would love to have he quality and confidence back to my singing. (gospel) Jazz,pop. Thank you in advance!
  3. Gwendolyn Hooks on November 25, 2014 at 6:51 AM said:
    exercise for polyps- I noticed the email and name are blank.
  4. Kim on November 25, 2014 at 4:05 PM said:
    Jeanie, thank you for addressing this topic. I've struggled with many of these symptoms after a prolonged illness in 2013 that had me coughing for weeks on end. I was really afraid that I'd developed nodes and went to an ENT last June. He scoped my folds and said that I had the pattern of nodes (folds closing like an hourglass, meeting in the middle, but not at the tops and bottoms) and said it was due to inflammation from all the coughing. Its been a slow road to recovery but I am finally reclaiming my range and most of my vocal tone. I still struggle with a weaker, breathier voice than I had before at times. Its really hard to break the patterns of tension that you develop when your voice isn't working right and you try to "make it work"! Your vocal warm-ups and cool downs have been my bread and butter during this recover period. They are the perfect exercises for recovering relaxed, tension-free phonation. Thank you again!
  5. Jeannie Deva on November 29, 2014 at 12:14 PM said:
    Hi Kim. Thank you so much for your input. I'm glad you're on the road to recovery and that my Warm-up CD has been such a help to you. Your next step is to work with my book and 4 exercise CDs: The Contemporary Vocalist Volume 1. This will really boost you past the bad habits and more. Let me know how it goes!
  6. Jeannie Deva on November 29, 2014 at 12:16 PM said:
    The road to full recovery includes very precise, very closely coached exercises that go under the heading of vocal therapy. You truly do need to work with a vocal coach live (or by Skype) who has experience getting results in this. Working with my Warm-Up CD will help but it is important that you do the exercises correctly. Also the breath management exercises that you'll find in my Contemporary Vocalist volume one (book and 4 CDs) are important to help get rid of any bad breathing habits that could have led to the polyps.
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