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Purpose of factsheet

This factsheet provides you with information and advice on how to care for your voice following surgery on your larynx (voice box). It can take up to 6 weeks for your vocal cords to heal fully, so looking after your voice is essential.

Day of surgery to day 3 post-surgery

At this stage your vocal cords are very likely to be swollen:

  • Do not speak unless your doctor has told you that you can.
  • Do not whisper as this increases tension in the neck muscles and will cause you to force your voice.
  • Avoid coughing and throat clearing as this will likely cause further swelling.
  • Plan activities so that you do not have to speak.
  • You may need to take time off work. Follow advice from your doctor.
  • Use other ways to communicate, you may consider:
    • mouthing words
    • writing
    • using email or text message
    • using gestures and facial expressions.

Days 4 to 8 post-surgery

You can now use your voice a little more. Aim for less than 30% of your usual vocal load. You can commence any exercises given to you by your speech pathologist in your pre-operative appointment. Do:

  • Only speak for short periods of time (for example 2-3 short sentences).
  • Use your voice softly but still do not whisper.
  • Drink water, sipping throughout the day to stay hydrated. Be gentle if you laugh or cry.

Do not:

  • cough or clear your throat forcibly – be as gentle as you can
  • smoke or drink alcohol as these will irritate and dry your throat
  • whisper
  • talk for long periods of time
  • shout, talk loudly or force your voice out
  • talk against background noise or try to be heard above others
  • call upstairs, across the road or from one room to another.

After day 8 post-surgery

You can now slowly build up the amount of speaking you do. However, you still need to take care of your voice.

Do not:

  • talk loudly and for long periods of time
  • talk against background noise
  • try to be heard above others
  • call upstairs, across the road or from one room to another etc
  • laugh or cry loudly
  • sing forcefully or loudly
  • cough or clear your throat forcibly
  • shout, yell or scream
  • smoke, drink excessive alcohol or lots of caffeine.

By gradually increasing the amount you talk, you will slowly increase the stamina and strength of your vocal cords. In the early stages you may find that your voice becomes tired more quickly. If this is the case you should rest your voice and follow the advice given above.

Speech Pathology sessions may be recommended by your doctor to help you learn good vocal behaviours and techniques. Habits such as smoking, overusing your voice and not drinking enough water may hinder healing and progress, and your voice may not improve as quickly as you would like. There is no guarantee that your voice will be better than before your surgery but Voice Therapy, and your hard work, can help.

If you have any questions:

If you have any questions or concerns about your surgery, please contact your Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, speech pathologist or local doctor for advice.

Disclaimer This document describes the generally accepted practice at the time of publication only. It is only a summary of clinical knowledge regarding this area. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital makes no warranty, express or implied, that the information contained in this document is comprehensive. They accept no responsibility for any consequence arising from inappropriate application of this information.

  • Voice Care Advice following Vocal Cord Surgery #215
  • Owner: Audiology
  • Last Reviewed: February 10, 2020
  • Next Review: February 10, 2023