Vocal fold nodules are another problem for many singers, but Costello says they’re not caused by a cold or infection.
“Nodules form over time when a singer brings his vocal cords together with a lot of energy. If you have a fairly 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 is not surgery, but to use the voice in a less energetic and loud way.”
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought new concerns for those who live by 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 such changes in vocal ability may not affect the average person much, they are of concern to professional singers.
It is “having a substantial impact on their breathing and [leading to] quite a high frequency of persistent coughing,” says Misono. “It doesn’t necessarily directly affect the larynx or vocal folds, but it does have an effect on breathing… if a singer’s breathing is compromised, it’s very hard for him to do everything they would like to do with their voice,” she says.
For example, shortness of breath is a common symptom of long Covid, and some recent variants of the virus, such as Omicron, have also been found to cause problems in the upper airways around the larynx. In addition to breathing problems, Covid-19 is also causing fatigue and malaise in singers, making it harder for them to feel “energized and alive” while 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 with this year’s winter contagions, it might be comforting to know that music doesn’t have to be completely cut out of their lives.
Singers who have been told to let their voice recover from illness may want to continue doing “little vocalizations” a few times a day to slowly build back up to singing. “We’re not advocating total vocal rest,” says Michael.
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