This abnormal change in the voice causes a gruff, overly husky, weak or raspy tone. You may experience alternating pitch and volume, often quite sudden and out of your control. This comes with anything from mild vocal cord irritation through to vocal cord injury.
It can be the result of a variety of conditions, however, the most common cause of hoarseness is laryngitis. Prevention is of course always better than cure. With that in mind, try to avoid excessive strenuous shouting, screaming or yelling and give up cigarettes if you’re a smoker. Vaping isn’t quite as bad for your voice, but it won’t do it any good either, so is best avoided too.
Voice remedies for singers
Sometimes hoarseness is unavoidable. In winter particularly, colds, coughs and flu can play havoc with your respiratory system and leave you with a gravelly sounding voice Usually, any kind of vocal improvement takes time, but that are some quick fixes you can employ for hoarseness that can improve the condition relatively quickly.
Home remedies for a hoarse voice
There’s much you can do to improve your voice without even having to leave the house. Here’s where you should start, before seeking out medications.
You’ve no doubt heard this before, but smoking is bad for you. Not just your overall health, but your voice in particular. If you’re plagued by persistent hoarseness, chances are the cigarettes are getting to you. Stop buying them and spend some of the money you’ll be saving on a steamer instead…
This is a super habit for singers to develop. And it’ll work wonders to clear mucus from your airways and sinuses when you have a cold. But don’t wait till you’re sick to do it. Start now. Remember – prevention is better than cure!
While you can do it with a mug of hot water and a tea towel, a purpose-designed device is more effective. Check out these top steaming products for singers.
How to cure a hoarse voice in an hour
If you don’t have an underlying condition or an illness what could be causing your hoarseness and how do you get rid of it? Well, there is another trigger – allergy.
Allergens often cause vocal irritation and allergies may develop at all stages of life. So if you suddenly find yourself with red eyes, a cough and/or a hoarse voice, you may have developed an allergy to something. If you’re allergic to a particular food or washing powder, for example, avoiding that allergen should be enough to stop the problem. But if you have hay fever or are allergic to something else that’s unavoidable, antihistamines are the solution.
So if this is the root cause it’s good news, as hoarseness from allergies is usually a quick fix. Some antihistamines will make you drowsy – not what you want when performing on stage. Look out for varieties that won’t make you feel sleepy, or take yours before bed. If your allergy is continuous, you can buy a brand of antihistamine that’s suitable for daily use.
My voice is hoarse and I have to sing tonight
It’s the singer’s nightmare. You have a big gig tonight, but your voice isn’t on top form. The most important thing you can do at this stage is to save what little you have left. If the event isn’t a super important one – like an open mic night or rehearsal with your band – it’s best to reschedule. Singing with a weak voice can worsen the effects and it’ll take longer to get it back as a result.
Many singers go to the doctor to request antibiotics when hoarse, but this is very unlikely to be the answer and the doctor will usually say no. Unless you have an infection that can only be cleared using these medications, your doctor will not prescribe them. Overuse of antibiotics resulting in resistance has become a real problem in the UK, so you should only seek them out when it’s really necessary. And they’re rarely a cure for hoarseness.
Perhaps it’s vital you carry on. If you’re performing in a professional show, or have a place in a competition final, you won’t want to cancel unless you’re unable to get out of bed. In this instance, your remedy is to rest your voice ahead of the gig as much as possible. That means no singing, no talking and definitely no whispering. Do a very gentle warm-up before you go on and if possible, adapt your repertoire to songs well within your range that won’t tire or tax the voice too much.
What is the best medicine for a hoarse voice?
Dating all the way back to 1885, these little lozenges have quite a heritage.. A menthol and eucalyptus liquid was created by an English pharmacist for fishermen sailing the North Atlantic a cure-all tonic for a number of respiratory issues. But with glass bottles proving a challenge when navigating choppy seas, it was later engineered into the lozenges we now know and love. The recipe remains more or less unchanged, other than the introduction of an aniseed variety (an ingredient that is also excellent for clearing the voice) and a sugar-free version.
Hoarseness often comes with a cough. You can buy lozenges to help suppress it though. It’s not good for you to take these regularly, but they are a fall back if you really need them.
Hoarse voice for months
Some people, like Joss Stone and Rod Stewart, have naturally raspy voices. If yours has always been that way, it’s nothing to worry about. But if you noticed a change that doesn’t go away, it’s time to get it checked out.
Perhaps your hoarse voice is being brought on by a medical condition. It should be stressed, that this is much less likely than the aforementioned causes. But if it is the case, your remedy will need to come from a medical professional, rather than your kitchen cupboards or a pharmacy. The rule is, if your hoarseness lasts longer than 2 to 3 weeks, you should see a doctor and request a consultation with an otolaryngologist. They can then exclude any of the more serious causes of hoarseness, which are:
- benign vocal cord nodules, cysts or polyps
- vocal cord paralysis
- inhalation of irritants
- thyroid problems
- trauma to the larynx or vocal cords
- neurological conditions
- cancer of the larynx
My voice is hoarse but my throat doesn’t hurt
So what else could be the underlying cause of your hoarseness?
Acid reflux could be the culprit. Again, you’ll need to be examined by a medical professional to properly identify this. But it’s easily solved and a relatively common complaint.
Medications for gastroesophageal reflux
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux, is a condition that may cause hoarseness. If so, your doctor or specialist will prescribe medication to treat it. There are plenty of things you can eat and drink – like manuka honey, ginger, lemon and throat coat tea, that will ease your symptoms. They’re not remedies as such, as they only soothe and help. However, they will be of benefit when used alongside some of the remedies we’ve talked about in this article. Getting into a good health routine and developing positive daily habits will prevent hoarseness from striking in the first place. But you always have these hoarse voice singing remedies to fall back on when it does.