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Voice disorders can happen to anyone

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Posted at 6:09 PM, May 20, 2016
and last updated 2018-12-27 15:59:18-05

Yelling and screaming can put a strain on your voice and have serious consequences.

As a professional singer, Ann Sacks, has always been in tune with her voice. So, right away she knew something was wrong when she let out a screech, like many of us have done before. Often, we think nothing of it.

“I used my voice inappropriately which I think a lot of us do as parents, just human beings," Sacks said, “There was a very small polyp and inflammation. Over time it got harder and harder to sing.”

That’s how Ann ended up at The Johns Hopkins Voice Center, located on the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) medical campus. There, she met and worked with Speech-Language Pathologist, Melissa Bidlack.

“We always look at the voice as a whole- speaking voice, singing voice. That’s why it’s different than singing lessons. We try to unify the voice and get the person back to their baseline,” Bidlack said.

Because singers are always using their voices, they often recognize issues earlier. But voice disorders can happen to anyone. Dr. Kenneth Fletcher, a Laryngologist says typically these issues are found in those who use their voices often, like teachers and lawyers.

“The most common thing we see are functional voice disorders, so overuse problems. It can lead to polyps, nodules, but often it’s just strain,” says Dr. Fletcher.

That strain can even come from yelling at a sports game or raising your voice at your kids.

So what are some signs that something might be wrong?

Dr. Fletcher says, “Red flags certainly for us are when the voice goes away completely. If it's persisting beyond a few weeks… it needs to be addressed."

Dr. Fletcher says like everything else with our bodies, we need to be taking care of our voice. That means voice hygiene. He says hydration is important.

"We really take for granted our voice because it’s just like eating, drinking, swallowing, it's supposed to be there," says Fletcher.