Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Crying Affects the Voice

Tis the season to sometimes... cry.

Tears can be
...happy (people getting engaged, finding out they have booked that gig or won that award, finding out the sickness is curable, hearing just the right song at just the right time, singing an emotionally relevant song to yourself, or just crying from sudden realization of gratitude and happiness)
...or sad (so many reasons... and tears help with unblocking pent up feelings and emotions that need to be expressed for well-being).

But if you have an impending singing or speaking gig... be careful. It's important to know how crying affects the voice:
  1. It swells the vocal cords. Swollen vocal cords do not work very effectively, period.
  2. Sinuses also swell. This gives the typical nasal sound, like when you have a cold or sinus infection. 
  3. All kinds of vocal problems present... including limited range, impared vocal control and tone quality.
  4. It can lead to vocal damage. If even an infant crys too hard or long, the vocal cords can start to be injured. Long enough, it can turn into the beginning of nodes.
  5. It can take time for the cord swelling to go down. A lengthy period of crying, such as in mourning or from depressions, can cause rather chronic swelling that needs time to shrink. Voice rest is imperitive, not to mention physical rest and psychological peace.
So go on... if you need to, cry. But try not to push your voice too hard or too long. Cry it out, talk it out, and then give yourself time to rest and heal. DO NOT sing hard with recently cryed-out, swollen vocal cords. Be kind to your voice; you are responsible for its well-being. Don't ask or expect it to perform well when it's swollen.

Blessings to all.. may the peace and love of this holiday season lead only to happy tears.

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  • At January 3, 2012 at 12:37 PM , Anonymous Randy U. said...

    I like your advice. Very practical and useful. Thanks.

  • At January 3, 2012 at 3:14 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Thank you Randy, for the feedback! May I always post useful information for you and all my readers.

  • At June 25, 2013 at 3:55 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    i don't think crying is really going to mess someones voice up.. unless they cry daily.
    it does hurt the lymph nodes a bit... the muscles around the jaw sometimes...
    (that hard to swallow feeling you get when you intensely cry)

    And yelling can cause pollyps...
    There's already enough things in life that can cause vocal damage... why
    add YET ANOTHER to the plate.


    enough already

  • At September 12, 2013 at 9:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I cried all afternoon and evening (joyful crying, I might add) about a month ago and my singing voice is still gone! When I try to sing, it feels like I am jutting out my jaw and feels tight in my neck and throat. I can't sing any high notes at all and as I try to sing a scale the pitch goes flat and won't go any higher. My speaking voice is, also, somewhat hoarse.
    Have I ruined my voice? Please advise.

  • At September 12, 2013 at 12:37 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Hey there...
    You know, the crying episode affects on your voice should be long gone by now. I would speculate that you somehow have developed a bad vocal technique habit or two, maybe to try and compensate, and need to turn that around. If I were you I'd check in with an E.N.T. doc to rule out any organic vocal cord dysfunction or damage, and also with an intuitive vocal coach to watch you sing, assess your technique and do some retraining. Even one lesson could help you. Caution: Do not play around with chronic hoarseness. Get it checked out. Let me know how you're doing...

  • At August 12, 2014 at 1:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    how bad is silent crying...? lots of tears but no phonation... I'm assuming it's still a swelling issue just going on the puffiness of eyes and the stuffiness of nose. I really suck at not crying.

  • At August 12, 2014 at 11:08 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Well you're right... it's still a swelling issue and will affect your voice. HAHA... you must really feel the music; not a bad thing. If you have to sing, though, you might try distancing yourself like out-of-body thinking. You can reattach after your vocal performance is over:)

  • At November 25, 2018 at 12:12 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Hey there.
    I know this is a very old post but hope someone can help.
    2 months ago afyer a cold I developed laryngitis and lost my voice for 3 weeks, 8 weeks down the line I still have severe hoarseness and voice very weak and delicate. I am e freely stressed out at the length of time this is taking to heal. I saw an ENT consultant 4 weeks aagoho, he said no swelling at all and everything looks very well... he diagnosed functional dysphonia post laryngitis.. referral to speech therapy. If everything is fine why do I have such a hoarse voice.. I am really depressed and crying every day as a result as I have 2 young children that I can't communicate with.
    Any ideas at all. Please help.
    Thanks you xx

  • At December 5, 2018 at 4:31 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Hi... First of all, I'm so sorry you're having this longstanding issue. Very wise to have an ENT check you out; happy to know he saw no swelling. However, if you are depressed and crying a lot, you are putting stress on your voice, and even healthy voices are limited when pushed. I would say you probably have some counterproductive technique going... you aren't sounding your voice in a healthy way. What I would suggest is that you get with a good coach who can help you use healing technique. If I worked with you, I would be sure you are not pushing too much air, leaning on your voice, dehydrating your voice or tightening your throat channel or ribcage. I would also suggest lightly and carefully working a lot in your head voice (upper register). Instead of pushing, you should pull your voice from above and behind you. You can even talk to your young children in a Minnie Mouse kind of voice, like playing a game with them. I bet they would love it, and it would make you all smile! If ever you want to try a lesson with me online or in person, just hit me up on my webpage at the contact tab. https://judyrodman.com/contact.htm

  • At January 28, 2019 at 3:37 PM , Blogger zulegs40 said...

    Have you gotten your voice back? I'm in a very similar situation and wondering if there's hope for me.

  • At January 28, 2019 at 4:08 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    I have indeed gotten my voice back. My vocal damage was from more than crying... it was from an endotracheal tube. My story is here, and may have some tips you can use even if your issues started with crying... https://blog.judyrodman.com/2013/10/how-my-damaged-voice-came-back.html . I got your longer comment, but will just publish this one. You mentioned you have small children. I'd watch your speaking voice. It can sometimes be the talking that causes the most stress and strain to those red vocal cords. Get to the bottom of WHY they are red and you can reverse your vocal issues. Let me know how you do!

  • At April 16, 2019 at 1:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This happens a lot. Anytime I harshly cry, my voice is hoarse and swollen the day after. It sucks when you have a job that requires a lot of speaking. I technically have to "schedule" when I cry because if I have to give a speech the next day, crying the night before, makes me not even understandable.

  • At April 16, 2019 at 8:59 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Thank you for your comment. Chronic crying signals problems... not just for your voice. Sometimes things that trouble the voice point to a need to dig down deep, possibly with professional help, to the cause. A medical doc or alternative practitioner, a psychotherapist, a nutritionist (it's possible that you need to change your diet, which affects mood, too). But whatever, don't stop til you find your answer... make your way from chronic anguish to peace and joy.


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