Home Health Why Your Voice May Sound Different: 5 Common Causes
voice sound different causes

Why Your Voice May Sound Different: 5 Common Causes

by Martha Simmonds

Have you ever noticed that your voice sounds different from how it usually does? Maybe it’s hoarse, raspy, weak, or strained.

Or maybe it’s higher, lower, or more nasal than normal. What’s going on with your voice?

Your voice is made by the vibration of your vocal cords, two thin bands of tissue inside your voice box.

Your vocal cords can change shape and tension depending on how you use them, which in turn, can affect your voice.

Let’s explore six common reasons why your voice might change and how they affect your vocal cords.

1. You Have a Vocal Disorder

Sometimes, your voice may sound different because you have a vocal disorder that affects the structure or function of your vocal cords.

Some of the most common vocal disorders are:

• Vocal nodules are small bumps on the vocal cords resulting from overuse or misuse of the voice. They are often called “singer’s nodes” because they are common among singers.

• Vocal polyps: soft, fluid-filled sacs that form on one or both vocal cords. They can be different sizes and shapes and might be caused by one time you hurt your voice (like shouting) or repeated irritation (like smoking).

• Vocal cysts: round lumps that form inside the vocal cord tissue. They might have been there since birth or caused by injury or infection.

• Laryngeal cancer: malignant tumors on the larynx (voice box) that result from smoking or other risk factors.

Some vocal disorders may also be caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the muscles of the larynx.

Vagus nerve damage symptoms can include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, loss of voice, or changes in pitch. If you suspect you have vagus nerve damage, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.

To prevent these disorders in general, you should avoid habits that damage your vocal cords, such as smoking, shouting, whispering, or clearing your throat.

If you have bumps or growths on your vocal cords, you might need surgery to remove them. Surgery is usually done with a microscope and a laser or a scalpel.

The goal is to restore the normal shape and function of the vocal cords while keeping as much healthy tissue as possible.

2. You’re Using Your Voice Too Much or In the Wrong Way

This is one of the most common reasons why your voice might change. It happens when you use your voice too much, too loudly, or in an improper way.

For example, you might be using your voice wrong if you:

• Shout, scream, or sing for a long time
• Talk for hours without resting your voice
• Speak with a high pitch or a lot of tension
• Whisper or clear your throat a lot
• Breathe wrong while speaking or singing

These behaviors can hurt or damage your vocal cords, making them swell, inflamed, or bruised.

This can make your voice sound hoarse, weak, breathy, or strained. You might also feel pain or discomfort in your throat.

If you have voice problems because of using your voice wrong, you might benefit from voice therapy. Voice therapy is a type of speech therapy that teaches you how to use your voice healthily and efficiently.

A speech therapist can help you improve your vocal technique, habits, and hygiene.

3. You Have Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is when stomach acid flows back into the throat and irritates the back of the throat and voice box. This is also called laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD).

LPRD can cause symptoms like:

• Sore throat
• Feeling like something is stuck in your throat
• The need to clear your throat
• Feeling like you have mucus in your throat or nose
• Chronic cough
• Trouble swallowing
• Red, swollen, or irritated voice box

LPRD is caused by a problem with the muscle that acts as a valve between your esophagus and your stomach. This muscle is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

When the LES is weak or relaxes too often, it lets stomach acid flow back into your esophagus and up to your throat.

To prevent or treat LPRD, you should:

Follow a low-fat, low-acid, and bland diet that avoids foods and drinks that trigger reflux, such as spicy, fried, or acidic foods, alcohol, caffeine, and fizzy drinks.

Avoid lying down within three hours of eating, as this can increase the chance of reflux.

Raise the head of your bed by 6 to 8 inches using blocks or wedges under the mattress. This can help gravity keep stomach acid in the stomach.

Take natural remedies for acid reflux or over-the-counter medicines to lower stomach acid, such as antacids, H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors, or herbal remedies. These medicines can help reduce acid production and heal inflammation in your esophagus and throat.

Talk to your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve or worsen despite lifestyle changes and medicines. You may need more tests or surgery to fix the problem with your LES.

4. You Have a Cold or Flu

A cold or flu is a viral infection that affects your nose, sinuses, throat, or voice box. It can cause inflammation and irritation of the mucous membranes that line these parts.

This can affect your voice by causing:

• Hoarseness
• Loss of voice
• Throat pain
• Dry cough
• Stuffy or runny nose
• Fever
• Swollen glands

A cold or flu usually goes away on its own within a week or two. However, to speed up recovery and prevent complications, you should:

• Rest your voice as much as possible. Avoid talking, singing, whispering, or clearing your throat. These actions can strain your vocal cords and delay healing.

• Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, especially water. This can help moisten your throat and thin mucus secretions.

• Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to the air. This can help soothe your throat and reduce irritation.

• Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and quit smoking, as these can worsen inflammation and damage your vocal cords.

• Gargle with warm salt water or suck on lozenges to ease throat discomfort. You can also use over-the-counter pain relievers or throat sprays if needed.

5. Your Hormones Are Changing

Hormones can change your voice by altering your vocal cords.

For instance, boys get more testosterone in puberty, which makes their vocal cords bigger and lower their voice. As a result, their voice may crack until it stabilizes. Girls have less drastic changes and keep their voice pitch.

Pregnant women produce more estrogen and progesterone, which can swell and increase blood to the vocal cords. Their voice may become deeper, huskier, or breathier. These changes usually reverse after birth.

Menopause women lose estrogen, which affects their vocal cords. Hormones can also impact your mood, which in turn may change voice expression.

Do vocal exercises like humming, singing, or reading to strengthen and stretch your vocal cords.

Wrapping Up

Your voice is important to who you are and how you communicate. Even a slight change in it can disrupt your day-to-day life, especially if you depend on it for your livelihood.

Knowing the real reason behind your voice change, you can easily take the necessary steps to restore it!

Do not hesitate to consult your doctor or an SLP (speech-language pathologist) who can help you restore your voice health.

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