Hoarse Sense

Tips to calm voice disorders related to wearing masks

Just when it seemed facial coverings to protect against COVID-19 could soon head the way of the micro purse, along came the delta variant. That prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that masks be worn indoors in coronavirus hotspots and led some businesses to mandate mask use for employees. 

The recommendations and requirements have people of all ages, vaccinated or unvaccinated, masking up again. They’re rejoining those who, for various reasons, have worn facial coverings since the virus first began to spread. Think health care workers, hairdressers, people with underlying medical conditions, and most anyone working in a restaurant, retail shop or public transportation.

There’s a subset of the population that continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 precautions.

There’s a subset of the population that continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 precautions.

Unfortunately, many of those people are winding up in the office of Kelly Yurasko, MSLP, CCC, SLP, a speech pathologist with Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat.

“Because they’re wearing masks, speaking through barriers and social distancing, there’s an entire subset of the population that continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 precautions they’re having to take,” Kelly explains.

“These patients typically present with soreness, tightness or fatigue in their throat; a strain when speaking, or their voice just gets worse the more they use it. Some even feel a little shortness of breath or get a little winded when speaking.

“The concern here is that when you’re suffering from some of these issues, it can lead to other problems. For example, muscle tension or vocal strain can lead to things like nodules – or little calluses on the vocal cords – or other vocal pathologies.

“We’re talking about coughing, constant throat clearing or a feeling there’s something stuck in your throat. Difficulty swallowing is another issue we’re seeing, but the good news is that we’re able to treat these problems.”

Treatment includes exercises designed to alleviate the strain on the vocal cords and speech therapy. There is also a simpler fix that can not only alleviate some of these problems, but also prevent them from starting.

“In a lot of cases, we’re recommending that patients simply increase their hydration,” Kelly reasons. “We say that because we’re finding people often don’t drink enough when they wear masks or face shields.

Drinking water helps to lubricate the vocal cords because it thins out the mucus that lubricates them, Kelly points out. The more you drink, the thinner the mucus becomes, and thinner mucus does a better job of lubricating the vocal cords.

“Another idea for people to do is decrease background noise,” Kelly offers. “That way, there is no need to raise their voice or strain to be heard. If you’re doing a lot of Zoom calls or things like that, make sure you have a good microphone and amplification.

“Allergies and acid reflux can cause a lot of these problems so managing those issues helps as well. The bottom line is: If you’re having a problem, we can help you. And in most cases, the fix is a simple one.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. mkb
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    • Atlantic Ear, Nose and Throat, P.A.

      Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat is a comprehensive, full-service otolaryngology practice with offices in both Seminole and Volusia counties. In the practice, Devang Shah, MD, and Daniel Rothbaum, MD, combine surgical excellence with a compassion... Read More

    • Devang Shah, MD

      Devang M. Shah, MD, is board certified in otolaryngology. After receiving his medical degree with honors from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, he completed his surgical internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hosp... Read More

    • Daniel Rothbaum, MD

      Daniel Rothbaum, MD, is board certified in otolaryngology. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine, he completed his general surgical internship and residency at J... Read More

    • Kelly Yurasko, MSLP, CCC

      Kelly Yurasko, MSLP, CCC, earned her bachelor’s degree and Master of Speech-Language Pathology degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She specializes in the assessment and treatment of voice disorders and holds a certificate of cl... Read More

    • Kelly Yurasko, MSLP, CCC

      Kelly Yurasko, MSLP, CCC, earned her bachelor’s degree and Master of Speech-Language Pathology degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She specializes in the assessment and treatment of voice disorders and holds a certificate of cl... Read More