Dear Dr. Jahn,
If I occasionally beat up my voice, how much rest does it need to recover? Two days of gentle voice use? More? I am talking about the other night when I strained my voice at a three hour gig with a bad sound system and ended up with a raspy voice at the end of it.
I wish there were a simple formula I could give you. In reality, there are too many factors at play. Your age, the anatomical attributes of your vocal equipment, your general health, state of hydration, non-singing vocal habits, social factors (smoking and drinking), as well as what actually happened to your cords – just some factors to consider. Huskiness from a bit of swelling or muscle strain is quite different from hoarseness due to a vocal cord hemorrhage.
Here are some suggestions:
If you have significantly strained your voice, try 48 hours of complete voice rest. This means no singing, no talking, and only essential minimal whispering (not the stressful “stage whisper”). Stay well hydrated during this time. Then, try vocalizing. Try some soft sirens (glissandos) up and down to check the top and the mix. Be aware of, and avoid, compensating by muscling or squeezing the voice if the top is clear but the mix is problematic; try muscle-relaxing techniques such as stretching and massaging the neck.
The best, of course, is to avoid the situation. Like most things, if vocal strain becomes the norm rather than the exception, you may eventually have longer lasting vocal damage.
-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)
This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.
Dr. Jahn is an internationally renowned otolaryngologist based in Manhattan with a sub-specialty interest in the professional voice. His practice includes classical and popular singers. He holds academic appointments at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He is Medical Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and former Director of Medical Services at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Dr. Jahn has published several books for vocalists, including “Vocal Heath for Singers” (Singdaptive) and “The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health” (Oxford University Press).