COVID-19 and Voice

COVID-19 and Voice

This section has some general information on effective communication in the context of new challenges posed by the global pandemic

Tips for Communicating While Wearing a Mask or Physical Distancing

  • Make sure you have your communication partner’s attention.
  • Face the other person, make sure nothing is blocking your view.
  • Speak a little louder.
  • Speak a little slower.
  • Use your hands, gesture and body language to convey meaning
  • Check that your communication partner has understood you; if not, say it a different way or write it down.
  • Move to a quiet place if possible.
  • If you’re talking with someone new, ask if there’s anything you can do to make communication easier for you both.

Source American Speech and Hearing Association, ASHA

Voice problems following Covid 19

Voice problems following Covid 19

Some people can experience temporary changes to the sound of their voice following covid-19 infection, below are some general tips to aid vocal recovery. If these difficulties persist seek medical advice, your GP may refer you to an ENT specialist and a speech and language therapist.

People with COVID-19 are likely to experience excessive and prolonged coughing episodes. Coughing brings the vocal folds forcefully together to to clear mucus from your lungs and throat. This level of coughing can injure the vocal cords and they can become swollen and inflamed. When vocal cords become swollen and inflamed, they can become stiff and less flexible. This means that they are unable to vibrate freely, so the sound of the voice changes, often becoming hoarse, rougher or weaker. This can be uncomfortable and frustrating. 

  • Keep well hydrated. Drink 1½ – 2 litres of fluid that doesn’t contain caffeine or alcohol per day (unless advised otherwise by a doctor).
  • Try gentle steaming with hot water (nothing added to the water). Breathe in and out gently through your nose or mouth. Avoid steam so hot that it brings on coughing.
  • When the virus is at its peak, coughing is unavoidable. but, once this stage of the illness passes, try to avoid persistent, deliberate throat clearing, if you can’t prevent it, make the cough as gentle as possible. Small sips of cold water can help supress the urge to cough.
  • Avoid medicated lozenges and gargles, as these can irritate or dry the mucosal lining of the throat.
  • You do not need to be on total voice rest, i.e. silent. Even in the early stages of the virus, when the voice is at its worst, speaking a few short utterances every so often during  keeps the vocal cords mobilised, and this can be a good thing.
  • Always aim to use your normal voice. Don’t worry it is a whisper or a croak; just avoid straining to force the voice to sound louder.
  • Don’t deliberately choose to whisper; this does not “save” the voice; it can strain the voice.
  • Avoid smoking or vaping.
  • Avoid attempting to talk over background noise  turn down background music, television as this causes you to try to raise the volume, which can be damaging.
  • If your voice is no more than a whisper do not attempt telephone, online chat, or video conversations. Once the voice starts to improve, avoid prolonged (more than 5 mins). Text-based options can be useful instead.
  • You may notice that your voice fatigues more rapidly than normal. This is to be expected. Take a break from talking when your voice is fatigued; this gives you voice a chance to recover.
  • In addition to irritation from COVID-19, reflux can also irritate the throat. To minimise any possible reflux, avoid foods which can cause reflux.
  • Until the voice has returned to normal reduce or avoid intense vocal activities such as shouting and singing.

Source: University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire (UHCW NHS)

Consult Your GP for advice and support :

  • If your voice has not completely returned to normal 6 – 8 weeks after COVID-19 virus infection, your GP, may refer you to an ENT doctor.
  • If you experience throat pain or difficulties swallowing difficulties  food or drink which persist beyond 6 weeks after the onset of your COVID-19 symptoms,
    If, during the course of your illness, you had to be treated in hospital with a breathing tube in your throat, you may have different or prolonged problems with your voice or throat.
  • The experience of being ill and possibly receiving treatment in hospital can impact us emotionally. Our emotions and voice are closely linked, so it is worth being aware that emotional recovery and vocal recovery can often progress hand-in-hand.