Talking Too Much Can Damage Vocal Cords

Nov. 18, 2005 — -- A "talker," Karen Edelman says having a voice that carries far and wide is helpful as a school director of development and a mother of two kids.

So she didn't waste any time getting medical help after recent bouts of hoarseness.

"When you have two kids, (I'm) constantly speaking loudly, and then I noticed my voice getting hoarse," she said.

It wasn't just a sore throat or a cold, her doctor warned. Edelman had actually out-talked her voice and injured her vocal cords, said Dr. Milan Amin of New York University's Voice Center.

Over time, talking loudly at frequent intervals can lead to vocal cord lesions -- one of the most common causes of voice problems, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology's Head and Neck Surgery association.

The symptoms of lesions include gravelly voice tone, low pitch, breaks in speech, airy or breathy voice, inability to sing in a high voice, increased effort to speak or frequent throat clearing.

"If you're chronically using your voice in an abnormal way, you're traumatizing the vocal cords and they develop nodules on them," Amin said.

The nodules are like calluses, which in some cases require surgery. The problem can develop in anyone, although teachers are particularly susceptible, Amin said.

"It's not very uncommon that people come in after a couple of years of being hoarse and they finally decide to do something about it. It's bothering them and it causes them pain and bothers them at work," Amin said.

In the early stages, before the polyps harden, voice therapy can work. Patients like Edelman relearn how to breathe and to reduce muscle tension and strain when speaking.

Amin compares the nodules to calluses from tight-fitting shoes.

"So we have to, with voice therapy, change the shoes you are wearing for you to change the way you speak, so you won't develop the nodules," Amin said.

WABC-7 in New York City prepared this report.

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