HELP! DO I HAVE VOCAL NODULES?
“I sing in a local choir, which I love doing, but recently I have been unable to attend choir practices as I’ve ‘lost’ my singing voice. A friend of mine suspected that vocal nodules could be a contributing factor – what are vocal nodules?”
Vocal nodules are benign, noncancerous growths on the vocal cords 1. For singers such as yourself, and anyone who uses their voice for their career (such as public speakers, voice actors, telemarketers, and teachers), the diagnosis of vocal nodules can be an alarming one. Well, help is readily available!
“How do I Know If I have Vocal Nodules?”
The best way to diagnose vocal nodules is to receive an evaluation by a qualified ENT or otolaryngologist2. Persistent hoarseness, breathiness, an increased effort to speak and a rough / scratchy / gravelly / hoarse voice with low pitch are also possible indicators of vocal nodules3.
“It sounds like I may have nodules, but what treatments are available? Will I need surgery?”
Importantly, treatments and therapies have to be tailored specifically for each individual. With this in mind, we outline some of the treatments and try to allay some of your worries. Although surgery is a possible solution for some, in most cases people can find relief through medical and voice treatments below:
Medical Treatments For Vocal Nodules
A number of health conditions, for instance, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be treated to decrease the likelihood of developing nodules (1). Anti- reflux medication is usually prescribed.
Voice Therapy For Vocal Nodules
This is where a speech and language pathologist (SLP) can really help. The Osborne Head and Neck Institute (OHNI) go so far as to state that “The gold standard treatment for vocal nodules is voice therapy from a skilled vocal therapist”.
Speech and language pathologists help patients to learn good “vocal hygiene”, that is, good vocal habits which may include stopping vocal abusive behaviours and, where necessary, helping to alter pitch, loudness or breath support. Voice therapy will be carefully planned based on the unique needs of each individual. It’s worth noting though, that SLPs are not magicians. Much like physiotherapists, there is a degree of work required on the patient’s part. However, the bright side of this is that speech and language therapy may be all that is required to repair the damage.
Other practical behaviours that may help with vocal nodules include resting the voice, avoiding speaking against loud volumes, coughing, staying hydrated and avoiding irritants such as smoke.
Voice Surgery For Vocal Nodules
This approach is usually reserved for treating nodules and polyps that have been present for a prolonged period, and for rarer cases where medical and voice treatments have not managed to resolve the issue. If you fall into one or both of these categories, surgery may be an option for you.
- Vocal Cord Nodules and Polyps [Web Page]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/NodulesPolyps/
- Gupta, R. (n.d.). Vocal Nodules: Frequently Asked Questions [Web Page]. Retrieved from http://www.ohniww.org/what-are-vocal-nodules/
- Nodules, Polyps and Cysts [Web Page]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.entnet.org/content/nodules-polyps-and-cysts
- Harris, S. (n.d.). Vocal Nodules [Web Page] Retrieved from http://www.britishvoiceassociation.org.uk/voicecare_vocal-nodules.htm
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is provided for educational purposes and should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or the advice of a user’s personal physician or other qualified healthcare professional. Any treatment options presented herein should not be considered treatment instructions and we assume no liability for the outcome of any interventions listed on this website. Should you have any health care related questions or concerns, please call or see your physician without delay.