Would anyone have experience with vocal chord d... - Thyroid UK

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Would anyone have experience with vocal chord damage?


I just had my follow up with my surgeon after my 1/2 thyroidectomy a week ago, and now my right vocal chord won't move, and my voice sounds horrible. I sing in 3 choirs. I sang in Carnegie Hall. I sang under the direction of 3 world famous composers and along with 100 people was chosen to be the first music ambassadors to China in 2007. I have gone through so much much, and have had so much already taken from me, that it took till today to even process the idea I may not sing again. Does anyone have any experience of trauma to the vocal chords, and them recovering as normal?

My surgeon said he definitely saw the nerve, and he's seen this one other time...I am to follow up with him in a month, and he's referred me to a speech pathologist.

thank you.

37 Replies

My mum had something very similar many years ago ( she had her thyroidectomy in the 1980's) but she always swore blind they actually cut into her vocal chord as her voice was never the same again (sorry but its true ) she always had the voice of an angel before but it was always really croaky after her operation and she would never sing in front of people again as she was embarrassed by it even though she had always loved to sing. I hope this is not the same as what is happening to you and that the speech pathologist can do something for you. Back in those days and where we lived we did not have anything like that. She just accepted it and carried on. Unfortunately she is no longer with us but she always said if it had happened like that in this day and age she could have sued due to negligence as i think they actually said they had nicked the vocal chord at the time but i am not 100% sure. Hope your's gets better best of luck with the specialist xx

Thank you for your reply. We have a lady in church whose vocal chords were ruined by a medication the dr. had her taking. That's how I sound too. I had no clue this could happen. The dr. stuck the camera down there and said it was paralyzed. That also is the side of the surgery. It is no very reassuring to me when my he said he's seen this one other time.


What a disaster for you. Others who've had a similar op to you will respond and I sincerely hope that you recover your voice.

I had a total my sister had a hemi thyroidectomy (couple weeks apart lol) we both had very croaky voices after for many months (6-12?) although getting better slowly throughout that time. I was just told it was normal my sister under a diff hosp had the camera up nose/down throat to look at vocal cords as was then deemed ok.

I couldn't speak for more than couple mins without losing voice completely for many months too. I had op dec14 and voice ok now sorry can't remember when it was back to normal as it was gradual but it was long time.

I think it's very good you've bn referred to a speech pathologist as they will help and prob give you exercises to do so sure you'll be fine alot quicker than I was .Take care and try not to worry it's very early days x

Rkstarkey in reply to mrsm49

Has anyone ever had their thyroid out, where they didn't have trouble? And really, they could have told me this is a real probability. My husband just had his prostate removed, and they said he would leak for awhile. What a croc, and why would they say that? There is no control, and that is quite different from a leak. They could warn us, or are they afraid we'd run the other way? I don't think I'd let them take it, if I knew I'd never be able to sing again. Thank you all, for all your encouragement.

I had a total thyroidectomy in 2012 and was unable to talk properly for approximately 12 weeks. I was given no guidance so was unsure if I didn't use it I'd lose it or if I had to speak. I decided that it wasn't going to stop me so I'd talk, more of a whisper really to anything from the dog, random people or the telly.

I hope your voice does come back and no damage has been caused.

Rkstarkey in reply to AshbyTwin2

thank you! When you got your voice back, was it the same as before the surgery?

AshbyTwin2 in reply to Rkstarkey

Good morning.

I would say my voice is actually louder during normal talking but strained if I have to shout x

I had a my thyroid removed in to parts. And was told it might be a risk that my vocal cords. As it's closed to the thyroid. I live in the uk. I was meant to go for test before the operation but didn't receive a letter for when it was. Lucky enough my surgeon didn't touch them. And my voice was alright. You shouldn't give up hope yet. There is so much they can do now. Hopefully they can do something. Good luck.xx

Rkstarkey in reply to Haze1975

thank you! I am on the coast of Washington State, below Seattle about hrs. I enjoy this site extra just for all the knowledge I am gaining from your side of the world, and how your medical flows.

It could take time to recover. I struggle to raise my voice to speak in noisy places but otherwise fine. Good that you've been referred for speech therapy. I wish you well. Rod Stewart had similar surgery.

Rkstarkey in reply to Nanaedake

Well, that's something....if Rod can do, well then so can I! thank you.

Not sure about the U.S. but I'm aware of a couple of UK charities that support musicians / vocal artists...Hopefully, you'll find something equivalent in the States.

(1) Help Musicians - They were talking about it on the radio today following the suicide of Chester Bennington. They're trying to fund research into causes of the mental health issues that many musicians face.

Now, an obvious answer would be, 'Oh, it's the drugs and alcohol!' But, from my personal experience and friends too - that's not wholly accurate. Many musician (clean living) friends have 'gland' issues, inflammatory bowel disease, or even 'CFS' combined with anxiety - now I expect this has driven some of those in the lucrative, celebrity world to 'numbing the pain' with the wrong things.

I think you've hit on something - the voicebox and thyroid are located very close - singing when not fully well (e.g. with a virus) could, in theory, quietly damage the thyroid gland. Now, this is controversial stuff; but in my opinion a lot of 'Mental Health' issues take route in the endocrine system and poor gut health, which combined will give a person low T3 and low cortisol. Musicians rarely follow a 'normal' routine and often don't see much sunshine either (vitamin D is low).

(2) The British Voice Association - help with technical issues with the voice.

I recommend reading up on gut health as I think it may provide you with a few clues about how to overcome problems. The last thing you want as a singer is low stomach acid resulting in reflux - lots of stuff on the net about it.. Personally, I'm a big fan of broths!

Rkstarkey in reply to HLAB35

You've touched on an interesting subject. I've a friend

who's the real deal when it comes to energy work,channeling and healing. When I first got involved in music in the early 90's, she recentlyhad worked on a violinist from a major symphony, and she was surprised to feel/see how her brain processed differently than her normal non-music people. And I have been told, which makes perfect sense, music,even more so the voice, is the only activity which takes all parts of the brain to do. There is magic in music, and in my world, it would be a daily requirement for all people to sing and dance. Then everyone would be happy, and we could work out our differences,. Music to me, is like the first video game, and I'm good at catching gold coins :). I would have everyone making some kind of music or dancing....what a world we would have, imo.

It's odd, that's what I was thinking when I read this, that it is a trauma that energy work might help release. Have you had your friend work on you?

For some ungodly reason, my internet phone calls her continuously. Nobody can figure out why. We are sisters, and she had to block my number. I am so rural- really on the edge of the world, in a little tiny coastal town, that has eroded away Washaway Beach, Wa, USA, no choice on utilities, and my cell phone doesn't work at my house. I have to drive somewhere to call her, and I think to call her, but it's against the law to talk while driving, and once I get to the store, I forget. I am going to email a friend and ask her to call me, you are so right. And there's a part of me that thinks I must have caused this somehow, and she has had to help me through so much already...but you are right. Thank you for suggesting it.

If you are comfortable referring her to me, I can ask her to call you. Always interested in finding healing practitioners, and referring them to others. Not sure how direct messaging works on this site?

You are such a dear! She called me yesterday. thank you. she's going to look into it long distance, and get back with me.

BAPAM (British Association for Performing Arts Medicine) has downloadable fact sheets. I'm pretty sure they have one for vocal dystonia (is that the right term?)

There's something called the Lary Project which is about vocal problems.

Rkstarkey in reply to Christabel

yes ;( along with paralysis. I found Lary Project. Talk about stepping into the light, what a wonderful site. I would never dream such a site like this existed.

The Lary Project has a special section for singers


Please don't give up hope. I'm sure that something can be done.

Rkstarkey in reply to Christabel

Thank you so much! What another great site from the UK!

My doctor said it was paralyzed, and he has seen this one other time. He isn't young, so why he hasn't seen this so much before is a little disconcerting. I will hold on and not won't give up hope, yet.

There's a fantastic laryngeal osteopath in London- I'll send you his name.

Rkstarkey in reply to Quokka

Thank you, even if I am in the states, he may be able to give me a referral. Bless you!

Quokka in reply to Rkstarkey

US voice researcher Jo Estill's work is online, though she sadly died a few years ago.

Rkstarkey in reply to Quokka

Do you in the Uk

have the same saying as we do, "it's not over with until the fat lady sings"....I'm almost afraid to write this. but it's a saying meaning, nothing's set in stone, and can change unknowingly and surprisingly, so don't give up. I hope not to offend anyone, but really Jo Estill site , has given me renewed hope. thank you!!! The night doesn't seem so dark afterall.


I had a partial thyroidectomy in 2013 to remove thyroid cancer on my right thyroid lobe. I was never told that it could affect my vocal chords so much. I'm a qualified teacher and have not been able to return to work because of problems with my voice. Over 2 years ago an ENT specialist told me that the laryngeal nerve is always cut during thyroid surgery and that this has had an impact on my voice. I had speech therapy and was told that there wasn't much they could do because it was so long since the surgery. I should have had speech therapy within 6 to 12 months following the surgery. I complained to the surgeon that removed the cancer and was referred to another ENT specialist who said that I'd developed false vocal chords above my natural vocal chords and these where doing the work of my natural vocal chords and preventing my natural vocal chords from working. Apparently, my normal vocal chords are weak and need strengthening but the speech therapy I've had to do since this second diagnosis hasn't done a great deal and causes quite a bit of pain. If I was you I'd ask for a referral to a speech therapist sooner rather than later. I kept telling the specialist at the cancer hospital and the endocrinologist I was referred to due to having an underactive thyroid because of the surgery about my speech problem to no avail. It was only because I developed an acute hearing infection and was referred to my local hospital that I found out about the laryngeal nerve and then the second diagnosis of false vocal chords. Don't leave it too late, and in the meantime don't do any singing and rest your voice as much as possible so that you don't do any damage whilst you are recovering from your surgery.

Good luck and I hope all goes well for you.

TT x

Oml! I am an assistant minister, which I served today, and I won't be able to do that either if my voice doesn't get better. I am trying not to be fearful and not think about it. I wished they would have underscored just how damaging to the voice this most likely be. It would be interesting to see a poll on who had permanent issues, temporary and who had none. A woman at church has permanent damage to her chords from the side effects of one of these new medicines. I forgot what it was for, but it had nothing to do with the voice or throat. I think it was for chlorestoral (sp - my spellchecker won't tell me) or something like that. I was heartbroken for her, and here I am sounding just like her!

I'm really sorry you are going through such a rough time. Only I can advise is to rest your voice as much as possible to give your vocal chords and muscles in your neck area time to heal. I saw my speech therapist last Thursday and she told me that it will be scar tissue all down my neck that causes difficulties with my speech. All the muscles are tense and removal of the connective tissue between both sides of the thyroid gland would have caused scarring and tension thus me developing false vocal chords. Perhaps you should rest your voice and if things don't improve in a few months insist on seeing a speech therapist. Mine has given me some physiotherapy/massage exercises to do and I'm hopeful that they will help me a bit. I'm not sure how much good they will do but I'll give it a try and keep my fingers crossed. I'm a little doubtful because its nearly four and a half years since my surgery and really I should have started with speech therapy 6 months post surgery.

Good luck and God bless.

TT x

They say the body regenerates every cell, every 7 yrs, so theoretically, anything is possible. And if belief helps to make it possible, well,here's to our singing voices back again. And I just can't believe God will not have me sing! Thanks for taking the time to share with me.

I too had my vocal folds "clobbered" during my thyroidectomy. I was mute for six months. I returned to the surgeon three times to find out exactly why this happened. He used an endoscopy device to look down my trachea each time and the first two times he said that nothing was wrong, even suggesting that it was psychological and that I had adapted to selective speech!!!!!!! This condition almost drove me crazy - try not speaking even for a day. I persisted and the third time he looked down my throat he saw the problem. Anaesthesiologists use the larynx as a "washer" to keep their tubes in position. This had scratched my vocal fold and the subsequent scar tissue prevented the membrane from vibrating. I had a second operation to scrape off the scar tissue, I was told to absolutely not use my voice for another six weeks (which I did), then voila, voice came back - not the same as it was, I can no longer shout nor sing, but I can speak OK.

By the way, the larynx is a couple of folds, like a drum membrane, not chords like a violin.

And NOT by the way, Rkstarkey , I am horrified that you as a singer have been subjected to this carelessness. I only used to sing with my daughter in the car, or to myself with the radio, but to have a quality voice as you have, my heart breaks for you, I can imagine how you feel. I am so sorry.

Rkstarkey in reply to LAHs

Sometime it just pours for no reason. You go in for an innocent surgery, and wow your whole life has changed forever. I went to a small hospital in Tacoma, and the quality of the staff just wasn't up to par as say the UW in Seattle, or Tacoma General . These places are filled with people radiating integrity and just on top of their game. There were 2 instances at this little hospital. 1 was the intake LPN. which is just barely qualified to be in a hospital, and most hospitals don't use them....this hospital did. I told her no one, and they try all the time, could get blood from my inner elbow - it's been yrs . They try and go down to my hand. I had a bad cancer and2 yrs of chemo, pik lines, blah, blah. So my veins are small, hard, and overpoked, period. I don't even feel blood draws anymore. This LPN got it, and the resulting bruise was huge, and I still have it. She punched me. The other thing was when I had to scoot onto that narrow operating table. In November I had 8 fractures in my back. I can't lay flat. I said something and the asst. anesthesiologist's said, you won't care as soon as I put the mask on you. That left a little distaste in my mouth. So, I have a feeling, it might have been the tube itself which caused the damage, and not the surgeon. As soon as I found out I had a problem with my vocal chord, I googled it, and yep - many instances of damage from rough handling of the tube.

My mom had a bowel resection surgery that ended up being brutal, the doctor was dismissive before it, among other things. She says, looking back, she would have left, even though already prepped for surgery. Thank you for reminding me to watch for the signs that things are off, and to claim the power to leave/protect oneself.

Once a dental hygienist found out I had cancer, she scrubbed my teeth so hard,my mouth hurt for 2 weeks. People are strange and sometimes they have aberrant behavior. And to me, that is a little flag, depending on the circumstances. A friend of mine's daughter came home in tears after attending nursing classes through the community college at the community hospital. While in surgery the students and the techs made fun of people's bodies, etc. This is such a sign of low integrity, and these people are now nurses...and frankly that hospital at night feels like One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest. Where the staff at night, about 75% have a borderline personality disorder or somekind of mental or emotional problem. I recently had to go their ER, and it had been 10 yrs since the last time I was there at night, I am glad to say, it was a very pleasant experience. Yes, we need to trust our instincts, and it takes courage to stand up and say, no I don't think so. Kind of like that person who didn't take that flight that just crashed...

Behavior like that is so disappointing. Have you heard about this incident? The man won the case, good for him!


OMG! no I had not heard this. horrible...and makes a good case to have surgeries monitored. I am surprised they're not? When I was in the recovery room, just waking up some nurse was at me, all excited to see the reconstruction job I had. Apparently most women don't get nipples, and I had one and a tattoo. I didn't know mine was so different than hers or anyone elses. But it hurt my head trying to focus on what she was saying/wanted. Later, I got the feeling like my chest must have been the talk of the operating staff...but I let her go ahead and have a look, afterall us women have to stick together.

I had a tt in 2007 and my right vocal chord was paralysed. I had numerous speech therapy sessions and a year later i had thyroplasty surgery where they insert a silicone button to medialise the non working chord so the good one isnt working so hard. This Wednesday im having thyroid surgery again as the stupid thing grew back. This time its much riskier as if they damage the good chord i may need a trach tube in to breathe through. So you can imagine im freaking a bit. Hope you get sorted.

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