Losing Your Voice: 5 Myths for Remedies

Warm drinks can be soothing, however, so herbal or caffeine-free teas are better options than caffeinated ones.

Myth: Slippery elm is a natural remedy for a raspy voice.

Answer: False

Tea or lozenges made from the bark of the slippery elm tree has long been used as a remedy for sore, scratchy throats because it contains a gooey substance meant to be soothing. Singers go for the remedy, but there is no scientific evidence showing slippery elm is effective at protecting the voice or healing vocal folds.

"People want to take pills and get better right away," said Dr. Clark Rosen, director of the Voice Center at the University of Pittsburgh. "It's tough to tell if it's a placebo or real."

But doctors admit that remedies such as slippery elm will not do any harm, particularly if someone finds it comforting to try it.

Myth: Drink a lot of water.

Answer: True


Simple and effective, staying hydrated is one of the best things to do when struggling with throat and voice problems.

Viral infections and colds, as well as some of the medications people take when they are sick, cause dehydration and impair the body's ability to produce lubrication naturally.

"Moist is good for the voice," said Dr. Norman Hogikyan, a professor and director of the Vocal Health Center at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Water can help bring back a lost voice by lubricating the vocal folds and the rest of the throat. The vocal folds vibrate about 100 times per second in men and about 200 times per second in women. Water is necessary to keep that amount of friction from wearing down the epithelial tissue.

"Vibration of that lining is the fundamental source of sound," Hogikyan said. If it doesn't respond the way it normally does, it results in hoarseness.

Water is also a major component of the jelly matrix that comprises the bulk of the vocal folds. Hydration keeps the folds at the correct fullness so that they vibrate well and are not too tense to close properly, which creates a ragged, croaky sound.

Using humidifiers or breathing steam can serve the same purpose, offering just a little more hydration to the sinuses and throat to promote healing.

"It's tough to prevent getting a viral infection, shorten it or get rid of it," said Dr. Clark Rosen, director of the Voice Center at the University of Pittsburgh. "We have to learn how to live with it and minimize the impact of viral infections to the throat."

Myth: Have a hot toddy.

Answer: False

Warm and sweet with a splash of alcohol and perhaps a few spices, hot toddies could be considered the beverage version of curling up in front of a fire on a winter night. The warming drinks, fortified with brandy, rum or whiskey, were thought to stave off viral infections and soothe a raspy voice. But experts advise staying away from hot toddies.

"It feels like it's going down there and cleaning things out," Franco said. "You can drink all you want but it won't get down into the area that's inflamed. And you'll pay for it later."

Sick with a viral infection and struggling to speak, the body is already in need of moisture. Alcohol compounds this effect because it is dehydrating. Hot toddies have no demonstrated curative effects and their moisture-sapping qualities make them less than ideal beverages for those who want to heal their voices.

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