Vocal fold nodules are another concern for many singers, but they aren’t caused by colds or infections, according to Costello.
“Nodules develop over time when a singer brings their vocal folds together with a lot of energy. If you’ve got quite a loud voice, then you can end up with thickening calluses on your vocal folds. These nodular swellings can get bigger and bigger over time and cause hoarseness,” he says. “The solution for nodules isn’t surgery, but to use the voice in a less energetic and loud way.”
The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has brought some fresh concerns for those who make a living from their voice. Singers who have suffered from Covid-19 have reported longer-term changes in their singing voice due to breathing problems, or problems with their vocal cords. While perhaps such changes in vocal ability might not have much impact on the average person, they are worrying for professional singers.
It is “having a substantial impact on their breathing and [leading to] a fairly high frequency of persistent coughing,” says Misono. “It is not directly affecting the larynx or the vocal folds necessarily, but it is having an effect on breathing… if a singer’s breathing is compromised, it’s very difficult for them to do everything they would like to do with their voice,” she says.
Shortness of breath is a common symptom of long Covid, for example, and some recent variants of the virus such as Omicron have also been found to cause problems in the upper respiratory tract around the larynx. Besides respiratory problems, Covid-19 is also causing fatigue and malaise among singers, which is making it more difficult for them to feel “energised and vibrant” when performing, she says.
Whether Covid-19 will have lasting effects on the singing voices of those who catch it is much less clear.
But for those struggling against the winter infections doing the rounds this year, it is perhaps reassuring to know that the music doesn’t have to be completely absent from their lives.
Singers who have been told to let their voice recover after illness may wish to keep doing “little vocalisations” a few times a day to slowly build up to singing again. “We don’t advocate total vocal rest,” says Michael.
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