Oh to sing again, voice after TT

Had my TT in December 2012 for follicular carcinoma, the scar has healed beautifully, mind you I have used massage with coconut oil and vitamin E cream as well as bio-oil. But my voice is awful, still rather weak and low, I sing like a bear growling which I hate as I used to love singing and had quite a nice voice, my vocal chords were partially paralyzed for a few weeks after the operation and I did have a scare when I woke up not being able to breath in until I coughed and coughed to clear the airway, my surgeon said it was caused by a virus but I am not too sure about that, it happened a couple more times always at night. I practice singing scales when I walk my dogs round the farmers fields only the birds and dogs can hear and they don't seem to mind too much but I can only manage one octave starting 2 scales down from middle C, as I said before like a bear growling. I would like to hear from others who have had this problem especially if they have recovered over time.
I have had a multi-nodular goiter since 1993 and could not get any doctors to take me seriously they just kept changing my dose of Thyroxine up and down until the nodules started to interfere with my breathing then I managed to get a doctor to tear himself away from the computer screen and look at my neck long enough to see that there was a problem, this only after he had prescribed anti-depressants which I refused to take as I was not depressed, only very tired, very overweight, sleeping badly, having headaches, losing my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. I have now had RAI treatment and even that was not so easy as I had to have thyrogen injections even after 4 weeks of low iodine diet and 2 weeks of nil medication and a TSH reading of under 2. So now I am on the mend and the oncologist has dismissed me back to the surgeon.
Hope all you other thycar guys are finding life easier and feeling positive, I really think that helps.

Report post

23 replies. Join the discussion

I have issues but my right laryngeal nerve was severed. I will have surgery toward the end of the year to permanently move my paralyzed cord closer to the midline. I would see an ENT for a second opinion. Mine has been wonderful.

Report post

Thank you Dawn - the paralysis has gone now and they are wide enough to not cause any further breathing problems, the surgeon does not think my singing voice is important enough for further investigation, which I suppose is right as I only sing for pleasure not for a living. I will just keep trying to exercise gently and hope eventually I stop sounding like a bear growling. Hope your surgery is 100% successful. Keep going with hugs from Sally

Report post

My TT was December of 2011. I have issues with singing too, but I had no damage that I knew of during surgery. It has gotten worse over the last 15 months since surgery. I have trouble with several notes just above Middle C, especially F and G and that comes and goes, and sometimes no sound comes out at all for a few seconds. I can't land on a note, can't hold the note. Other times my voice just tires out very quickly with singing. It's a bummer for me too as we sing together at church for about an hour every Sunday (am and pm service). I miss it and feel like I am the only person in the big group who "can't" sing to God. I know He understands but it is a loss for me. All along though, if I raise my voice excitedly in just talking it does not sound normally either. I have been a little hoarse recent with conversation too. I am due to followup tests in 3 months.. but I am also at risk for losing my job and insurance the week after next (huge layoffs) from effects of Obamacare on the hospital where I work, so not sure if that will happen either.

Report post

Oh how I can relate to that as the only time I sing is to our heavenly Father and as you say He understands but I feel awful growling instead of singing, I just bought a keyboard to try to perfect my notes but as you say the spirit is willing but the voice is weak. If I try to speak comfortably people can't hear me so I try to raise it and it is a constant strain. I do hope you don't lose your job, we are quite lucky in the UK with National Health, but things are getting worse here too. Keep positive and thank you for your comments, it's good to share. Hugs from Sally

Report post

I had a total thyroidectomy in September of 2006. I haven't had any difficulty speaking but I can't sing anymore. I was at a Thyca meeting, a surgeon was speaking and he took a poll specifically regarding who can no longer sing. So I guess it's not uncommon.

Perhaps with practice you'll regain your ability to sing.

Report post

Thank you Barbara it is a help to know that others are in a similar boat, I keep looking for info about possible exercises to do to improve things but there is only things for singers and they say not to put a strain on the vocal chords, so I am trying to rest the voice as much as possible. Perhaps someone out there knows some tips, I did read that licorice tea is good for the voice so I am trying that - good thing I like licorice.

Report post

My TT was April 25th and I ended up with a paralyzed left vocal cord. My surgeon assured me that she left my laryngeal nerve intact. It was electronically monitored. She told me that it has happened very rarely with her patients and temporary vocal cord palsy usually only occurs about 3%. It's been very disheartening having this deep, monotone voice. And forget singing! I used to have a rather nice soprano singing voice and now I have no range or higher pitch. I just hate the sound of my voice. I still have some swallowing issues and have to be careful about certain kinds of foods. In the meantime, I was referred to a speech pathologist and I've seen her twice. She's " going to take my voice to the gym", she said. I'll have exercises to help strengthen the muscles around my larynx.

Well, I have some good news! I had a follow-up with my surgeon/ENT today to view my vocal cords. She put the laryngoscope in and I got to see my vocal cords in a large screen. And, my paralyzed vocal cord was moving this time!! I saw it with my own two eyes! She said its not 100% yet and still slightly bowed, but she said that it means that there HAS been some improvement from the last time she saw me almost a week post-op. And that it confirms that the laryngeal nerve was not cut. A severed laryngeal nerve will not heal. She said that it wasn't that mine was even "disturbed". It's just that when she was peeling tissue off in the area, it basically just froze. It's a rare reaction and just will take time to heal. I sure hope so! I've head here that one's singing voice doesn't always come back quite the same, as well as the speaking voice sometimes. She seemed to think that it WILL come back. And to keep doing what my speech therapist says. So we shall see! I'm just glad that it's not totally paralyzed anymore.

So, maybe you can be referred to voice therapy?

Report post

salty236-------> My speech pathologist is wonderful. Coincidentally, I saw her for several months 27 years ago after I had vocal cord nodules removed. I was so lucky that my HMO allows me to see her this time around. She helped me so much last time. Anyway, when you spoke about resting your voice, my SLP (speech language pathologist) said that everything I told her back in 1986 after I had nodules I can FORGET about this time around. I am NOT to rest my voice this time. That doesn't mean I should strain it, either. But, she's having me do LOUD exercises this week. I am to take a deep breath and say word "Ahhh" as loud as I can (not straining from my throat, but singing from my chest) and hold that Ahhh until I run out of breath. Do that 6 times twice a day. And the other exercise is to try for a higher pitch by saying "Eeee" for 5 seconds. Go as high as I can without straining. More of a nasal sound. Do it 6 times twice a day, too. I sometimes do it in the car.

She said that working on my voice is very similar to an athlete having an injury and going to physical therapy. We'll need to really give my voice a workout and like with any muscle that has been injured, it's going to be hard work and not always comfortable. But, she has high hopes for me as long as I'm willing to put the work in.

Anyway, you might try those exercises if you already haven't. And don't rest your voice too much. Use it! Or you'll lose it! :)

Report post

Thank you so much for that information, I have not been offered any speech therapy they probably think I am too old to need it, but I will try the Ahhh's and Eeee's I also used to have a mezzo soprano voice but now I don't think you could even call it a contralto or perhaps a tenor (lol). I will certainly persevere and let you know the results. I think my vocal cord palsy, as the ENT surgeon calls it , was similar to yours the nodules were so close to the cords and larynx that they were probably traumatized. Thank you again for your words of encouragement. sally x

Report post

Hi again, Sally! You're never too old! I'm 62 and I love to sing! It's such a huge part of my everyday life. I mourn the loss of my singing voice. You never realize how much you're going to miss something until it's gone. I used to be able to hit those high notes! We're not talking opera, but definitely mezzo soprano. Even though my left vocal cord is moving now, albeit not totally normal, I'm still finding it difficult to believe that my singing voice is going to return. Not to mention my regular speaking voice. I'll see what my SLP says tomorrow. And, I'll share any new exercises with you if you end up not going to speech/voice therapy.

Report post

Ah thank you for that - I spent an hour on the computer looking up singing tips and exercises but I could not even reach 2 notes over middle C only down from there. but I will be grateful for any new exercises you can tell me. I did try the Ahh's and Eee's but they sound awful and cracked. I will persevere. Hope your session goes well, I will ask the surgeon at the end of the month when I see him, tell him my voice is hard work, and having to strain to speak at a normal volume. Maybe he will suggest something, but I don't think it is that promising in UK - the NHS can't afford it. Sally x

Report post

Sally---For now my speech therapist is just having me build strength in those muscles surrounding my voice box --larynx. She said that we'll work on trying to sing or achieve higher pitches later. The Eeee sound is just a start in trying to get SOME pitch. Believe me, I sound like an angry bear when I try to sing. Or even talk, for that matter. Very discouraging. I actually almost started crying when I was trying to explain to my ENT surgeon yesterday about how much I miss my singing voice! But when she looked at my vocal cords and the left was moving, that gave me some hope. But, yeah....right now it's hard to believe that I'll ever be talking and singing normally again.

Patience is a virtue, right? :)

Report post

I do hope the powers that be get it sorted for you, I know what you mean about the angry bear, my grandson is courting a budding opera singer and she was telling me that if you hum notes you can get a higher pitch, I have tried that and can only do it far high and back in my throat if that makes sense. When I am on my own and try to sing I sometimes cry (and that makes it impossible) I have bought a keyboard to help with hitting the right notes, in the hope that if I cant sing then perhaps I can learn to play that instead. Please keep in touch Sally x

Report post

Sally, I remember when I started to cry a couple weeks ago and I couldn't even do THAT without sounding awful. I'm anxious to see what my speech therapist will do to help me with pitch. I tried to sing a couple favorite songs last night and my voice is VERY low and monotone. Lower than a typical alto. And the minute I try to sing the higher notes, my voice fails. I try not to even attempt to sing because I end up just feeling depressed. My speech pathologist is good because she's very therapeutic when it comes to listening and understandings the emotional aspect of losing one's vocal abilities. I'm anxious too see her today. Even though I did all the exercises she gave me, I don't see any change this week. As for singing, I've been doing it in my head and I can almost "hear" the high notes. But, it's not the same. Yes, please DO keep in touch. We'll be belting out songs before you know it! Yes, we will! :)

Report post

My TT was in April 2012 and I still sound like a bear. Singing is out of the question; it sounds horrible when I try. Went to see an ENT and had several appointments with a speech therapist, but guess this is the way it's going to be. There could be worse things though, so I am okay with it.

Report post

Dolive, I'm sorry. How many appts. did you have with a speech therapist? I'll be going twice a week for at least 3-4 months and she'll have more authorized as needed. And, then all the home exercises. Today I brought home 2 more in addition to the two I already have. Even though I KNOW I sound terrible, she said some of her patients with my vocal cord issue post surgery are far worse. And, I have improved since she did my initial evaluation a month ago. I wish I could send everyone to my speech pathologist!

Report post

It is nice to know I am not the only one. I had my TT Nov 2012, and have not been able to sing like I used to. The high notes are the problem, but the lower the better. They had to peel the thyroid/cancer off my vocal cords. I am happy for what I have, at least I can sing a bit better then what I could post op.

Report post

This is what I'm afraid of--that my speaking voice will come back fairly well, but that I'll no longer be able to sing like I used to. My speech therapist seems to think I will, but I'm not as optimistic. Yes, my voice is getting stronger and swallowing is easier. But, it's still low without any range or high pitch. But, I know it's been less than two months ago since my surgery.

Report post

Oh Linsifer please don't be too despondent, my surgery was 6 months ago and there is improvement even though it seems slow, I do sing but an octave lower than all the other female singers (same as the males I think) but there is a definite improvement I even managed one verse in the right octave but got too cracky so I went back again. On Thyroid UK website there are some who sing for a living and they had to wait 18 months for the voice to return, be determined and positive you may make a wonderful contralto. Take care xx

Report post

I think I had 4 appointments. I quit going because I was not seeing any improvement and it was a 30.00 copay every time I went.

Report post

This discussion is closed to replies. We close all discussions after 90 days.

If there's something you'd like to discuss, click below to start a new discussion.

Things you can do

Support ThyCa

Help ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association reach its goals and support people like yourself by making a donation today.

Donate to  ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association

Discussion topics

Help and information from ThyCa

Community leaders