Also known as singing nodules or screamer's nodules, vocal nodules are non-cancerous growths on your vocal cords. They are typically hard and vary in size. If you overuse your voice due to yelling, singing, or speaking loudly, you may experience vocal nodules. Do you suspect you have vocal nodules? If so, read on to learn more about how this condition is caused, diagnosed, and treated.
Causes of Vocal Nodules
Your vocal cords are tissue bands that run down the center of your voice box. Any time you speak or sing, the air from your lungs travels through your vocal cords and allows them to open. In the event you overuse your voice, your vocal cords may experience irritation.
Eventually, the irritated areas may harden, grow, and keep your vocal cords from vibrating as they should. This will lead to a change in the tone and pitch of your voice. If you sing or speak frequently, you are at risk for vocal nodules. This condition is widely seen in teachers, cheerleaders, and salespeople.
Diagnosing Vocal Nodules
If you believe you have vocal nodules, a doctor will likely ask you whether you've engaged in screaming, singing, or other activities that may have led to the condition. They'll also perform a thorough evaluation of your head, neck, and throat. If necessary, they'll use a lighted scope to take a closer look at your nodules. They may also ask you to speak in various pitches and watch the vibrations of your folds.
Treating Vocal Nodules
To start, your doctor will ask that you rest your voice. You'll need to give your nodules a chance to heal by taking a break from yelling and singing. You may also be referred to a speech-language pathologist who can teach you how to safely use your voice so you can avoid vocal nodules down the road.
If a medical condition such as acid reflux, sinusitis, allergies, or thyroid problem has led to your vocal nodules, it will need to be treated. Surgery may be required if your nodules remain after a few weeks or are particularly large.
Preventing Vocal Nodules
To prevent vocal nodules, you'll need to stop overusing your voice as much as possible. If this is difficult due to your line of work or hobbies, your doctor will provide you with some recommendations. You should also stay away from smoking as it can dry out and irritate your vocal cords. Reducing stress levels via yoga, deep breathing, and guided imagery can help as well.