Vocal Myths

Smoking marijuana or using E-cigarettes are not damaging to the vocal folds:

There aren’t enough studies that show long term effects of the vocal folds using e cigarettes or vaping. Cigarette smoking does show changes of the tissues of the vocal folds.  Long term smoking can cause Reinke’s Edema, tissue damage in with the appearance of clear balloon filled gelatin which occurs just below the top layer of the vocal folds.  There are many articles to support the effects of smoking tobacco products and vocal fold cancer.  One thing to keep in mind is anything inhaled has the ability to change vocal fold tissue.  Burning of leaves and inhaling them has more of an effect on your vocal folds than vaporizing.   Some evidence has shown that pre-cancerous changes on vocal cords reduce when all marijuana smoking is stopped.  Electronic cigarettes contain less carcinogenic ingredients than tobacco; however, there is concern of propylene glycol irritates the respiratory tract.  Smoke is smoke so if you are a vocal performer, why risk damaging your vocal instrument by puffing on any type of inhaled substance?

Whispering is good when on vocal rest or when voice is strained:

Not entirely true.   Whispering uses a different technique in the larynx and can cause hyperfunction (increased compressive movement of the vocal folds).  This can be a long term habit that is difficult to break.  On occasion using a soft technique of whispering may be beneficial, but forced whispering is not advised.

Dairy products thicken my mucus:

This isn’t always the case. Recent publications have demonstrated that dairy products do nothing to chemically increase mucus production or viscosity.   Food allergy or lactose intolerant may cause increased reactions and should be tested.

Caffeine and alcohol are bad for your voice:

This can occur if you overdue it.  Caffeine is dehydrating but you would need to drink more than three to five cups a day to cause any dehydration.  Some studies show little effect of vocal function with caffeine intake.  On the other hand studies have shown that increase water intake is beneficial.  Swollen vocal cords don’t function very well.  If the vocal folds are not hydrated properly and are taxed, then they can swell.  Alcohol is another common myth.  Again, how much are you consuming?  Sometimes the behavior that occurs while drinking alcohol (talking loud, drinking in a noisy environment, etc.) is more damaging than the mild dehydration of alcohol intake.  Remember, when you drink water you aren’t actually spilling fluids on the vocal folds directly.  Water will benefit the friction and heat created by your vocal folds by lubricating them. Drink until your urine is clear is usually the motto.

I have hoarseness so it must be reflux:

Causes of hoarseness and reflux tends to be over diagnosed.  Studies show that patients who visit their ENT with symptoms of hoarseness don’t always have reflux.  Proper diagnostic testing to rule out reflux should be performed prior to taking any medications.  Hoarseness is a symptom, not a disease.  Hoarseness can occur due to many other problems including improper technique, benign lesions including nodules, polyps, cysts, vocal fold cancer, and certain viruses and bacteria.  If you have symptoms of hoarseness persists longer than two weeks it is time to schedule a visit with your ENT and Speech Language Pathologist.