By now, we are all aware of the negative effects smoking has on our bodies. Organs that are affected the most by nicotine are the respiratory organs, especially the lungs and throat. However, we should not overlook the effect nicotine has on the heart, nerves, and stomach.
Vocal cords are also severely affected by tobacco and even vaping. In this case, we have to talk about how vocal cord nodules look, vocal cords irritation, and improper vocal cord vibration. All of them are from the harmful actions of the fumes. Moreover, all of these issues can have serious negative effects on one’s ability to use their voice properly.
So, let’s find out how smoking affects vocal cords.
Smoking and Vocal Cord Nodules
Vocal cord nodules are one of the most common negative consequences of smoking. They are caused by vocal abuse (singing), along with irritation such as cigarette smoke. Needless to say, these nodules can severely affect one’s vocal abilities. The good news is that the nodules are benign in nature. But, they can still cause serious problems to one’s voice.
How do Vocal Cord Nodules Appear?
First, vocal abuse and cigarette smoke can cause vocal cords to swell. If one continues to use their voice improperly and keeps smoking, the swellings turn into a blister. Finally, without proper treatment, blisters harden and become nodules.
Some of the most common symptoms caused by nodules are:
- Scratchy voice
- Rough voice
- Pain from ear to ear
- Neck pain
- Lump in the throat
- Decreased singing range
- Throat pain
- Vocal fatigue
If a person refuses to quit smoking and continues to abuse their voice, nodules can last a lifetime. No doubt, the best therapy is vocal training and abstinence from cigarettes.
Some of the most common complications of untreated vocal cords nodules are:
- Permanent hoarseness
- Vocal range decrease
If treated in time, nodules do not mean the end of a career for a vocal artist. Additionally, they don’t mean permanent damage for the rest of us. Furthermore, in most cases, nodules do not require surgical intervention.
Vocal Cord Irritation
Cigarette smoke and e-cig vapor can cause severe vocal cord irritation by drying out the mucous. As a result, this causes swelling of the vocal cords which prevents them from working properly. This makes one’s voice sounds raspy. Irritation of the vocal cords can cause improper vibrations. Consequently, it has a negative impact on one’s ability to speak or sing. In addition, smoking can also cause acid reflux that may affect the vocal cords and trigger irritation.
Due to vocal cord irritation, the body tries to compensate by producing more mucus. Therefore, this can be very uncomfortable for individuals who rely on their voice for work. It can include anchors, public speakers, professors, and singers. Excessive mucus production can have a negative impact on the quality of one’s voice. In fact, it can even impair mucus production in second-hand smokers. Moreover, overproduction of mucus can lead to chronic bronchitis.
One of the most severe consequences of smoking is throat cancer. In most cases, the removal of vocal cords is necessary, which leads to complete loss of voice function. Incidentally, people who do not smoke, but spend time with smokers can also get throat cancer. Individuals who combine cigarettes and alcohol are even at a greater risk of throat cancer.
Throat cancer symptoms may include:
- A cough up blood
- Unusual breathing sound
- Problems with swallowing
- Hoarseness that does not go away
- Weight loss
- Neck pain
- Lumps in the throat
Still, if treated in time, throat cancer can be cured.
Laryngitis refers to the inflammation of the vocal cords that can even cause loss of ability to speak. When one is suffering from laryngitis, their vocal cords are swollen. As a result, it means that smoking can cause even greater damage. Smoking can also trigger chronic laryngitis.
Some of the most common laryngitis symptoms are:
- Raspy voice
- Sore throat
- Nasal voice
- Runny nose
- Swallowing problems
Effects of Vaping on Vocal Cords
The main question is: Is vaping less harmful for your vocal cords than smoking?
Even though the initial response to this question is Yes, the overall answer is not that simple. E-cigarettes contain less harmful ingredients than regular cigarettes. However, that does not mean they are 100% safe and without any side effects (learn more about the dangers of e-cigs). Depending on the quality and contents of different “vape juices”, even e-cigarettes can cause considerable damage to one’s vocal cords. In addition, it can impede an individual’s ability to use their voice properly.
How to Avoid Vocal Cord Damage?
The answer to this question is quite simple—stop smoking. However, bear in mind that after years of smoking, it’s unlikely that your vocal cords will completely repair themselves. Actually, what you can do is practice vocal rest occasionally.
The healing of the vocal cords requires a complete lifestyle change. Even so, quitting is not enough. First, you will have to eat healthy foods, sleep well, and visit a voice therapist. Then, to reduce inflammation, they recommend taking supplements like magnesium. In addition, one should gargle your throat with honey and cayenne pepper.
Other tips and tricks on how to recover your vocal cords after years of smoking:
- Do not drink cold drinks
- Drink ginger tea
- Be careful with your voice. If you feel you are fully recovered, do not overuse it.
- Rest your vocal cords
- Drink a lot of water
- Avoid gluten