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Can Shouting Damage the Vocal Cords?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 3 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
Vocal Cords Voice Misuse Voice Damage

Yes, shouting and any activity that is considered to be misuse of the vocal cords can damage the voice and lead to problems with the vocal cords. Vocal cord damage happens commonly in children, who may use bouts of screaming to get their own way, but it can also occur in people who use their voice a lot in their work. Singers, actors, teachers, court lawyers, cheerleaders and sports coaches are all susceptible to vocal cord damage.

What Do Vocal Cords Do?

The vocal cords are the parts of the throat that enable us to make the noises of speech and also non-speech noises such as screaming, wailing or grunting. The vocal cords are more like folds in the tiny muscles within the voice box, also called the larynx. In men, the vocal cords are longer than in women, so give a deeper tone and pitch to the voice. At rest, the muscles that form the vocal cords are separated but when we are speaking, singing or screaming, they are drawn closer together and the air passing through them causes them to vibrate, forming sound.

What Effect Does Voice Misuse Have?

In the short term, a brief spell of misusing the voice, such as shouting at a football match, will cause local inflammation in the muscles that make up the vocal cords. This will cause a sore throat and perhaps a hoarse sounding voice, but the effects are only temporary, lasting for a couple of days at the most. If someone repeatedly misuses their voice by shouting, screaming or just straining to be heard on a day to day basis, the vocal cords then suffer more long term damage and frequently develop swellings or nodules. These are commonly called throat polyps or vocal cord nodules.If someone who shouts a lot becomes generally hoarse, they may have several throat polyps but not actually realise it. Polyps on the vocal cords are also common on singers, and may interfere with the singing voice.

How Can Vocal Cord Damage be Prevented and Treated?

When the problem of voice misuse is identified, retraining is important to prevent further damage, and possibly long term damage. In children, this is more difficult, particularly if they are very young and have developed the habit of shouting and screaming. The best treatment is to rest the voice completely and encouraging a child to drink more cool water can also be helpful. In adults, resting the voice is also recommended but this may also be difficult because of work commitments. Surgery can remove vocal cord polyps that develop but new ones can form if the underlying voice misuse is not tackled.

Smoking also tends to damage the vocal cords, so adults with vocal cord damage are also encouraged to stop and to limit activities such as shouting for their team at sports events. Actors and actresses who are called on to scream for theatre plays, films and TV programs often use a vocal coach to advise them on how to produce a realistic screaming sound without causing too much damage to their vocal cords. Most vocal coaches will encourage the actor to rest the voice completely during the rest of the day and to drink milky drinks, which have a soothing effect. Like any muscles, the vocal cords also benefit from being warmed up before doing the equivalent of a 10 second sprint, so voice exercises are designed to stretch the muscles gently before the screaming scene.

Having singing lessons is a good idea if you do any sort of singing as a good teacher will show you how to sing without putting undue strain on your vocal cords.

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Shouted at my daughter about 4 months ago and felt my voice pop.I love singing and can manage to hit very high notes..although not always pitch perfect . now I can't even sing. I'm very upset as I use singing and music as a release from my day to day stresses. Plz help.
mary - 3-Mar-18 @ 2:54 AM
Hi .my voice has been a bit weird yesterday .and today when I woke up my voice is almost gone .it's very hard to speak..this is the first time I'm experiencing such situation..please help me to restore my voice...please tell anyone home remedies....
Dijjaa - 1-Dec-17 @ 6:06 AM
@lilwiz - give your voice a rest - that's the best thing if you've been shouting too much. Why are you shouting anyway? There is no need.
Puccini :) - 22-Sep-17 @ 2:08 PM
I do sing and as a result of shouting I lose my voice so what do I do?
lilwiz - 21-Sep-17 @ 8:19 PM
im a really loud person and i tend to yell a lot, but im only 13. Im also a singer and I really don't want this to affect my voice and it's been hurting for a while and im very upset because im afraid i could have scarred my vocal cords and music is way too important to me to lose them
Mia - 3-Apr-17 @ 2:54 AM
Hi, I screamed and cried really loud for more than an hour three weeks ago. My voice is coarser now and it gets tired really easy. I thought it will go away, but it doesn't. I don't use my voice a lot, but I noticed I also shout and sing loud in Zumba. Could I have damaged my cords permanently? Do I need to see a doctor? I met two people with voice damage and it was permanent :'(
Layla - 16-Feb-17 @ 8:39 PM
I teach spinning and music's loud.. my microphone isn't good. Voice seems always raspy. Plus ive notice a nervousness type sound in my voice Is this consistent with my issue?
Alan Murphy - 28-Jan-17 @ 10:01 PM
I am a teacher and my pupils are not cooperative. The only way to make them quite is to shout at them.. Until im already used of shouting them. And month ago, i felt something unexplainable in my throat whenever i swallow.. Sometimes it goes away.. But after shouting again or in too much talk.. The feeling comes back.. Im so worried..
Ner - 30-Sep-16 @ 11:34 AM
I am working in teaching field am always speak in loudly with others so now a days I have problem to speak my voice is totly Chang it become harder..when am come to home from school that time I can't talk with my members...am so tired...so my shaurness is reason for throat cancer?
pari - 9-Sep-16 @ 6:02 AM
I had a cold or similar and as most of us do felt sorry for myself a bit but just got on with it. It included a slight temperature, generally feeling unwell, a productive cough. A couple of weeks into this I went to a big football match, a cup final, up at 5:30am, back home at 2:30am and maybe a certain amount of dehydration from time to time. I wasn't the only one on the coach with a cough. During the match itself I of course had to do my bit for my team from the stands, singing and shouting with 45,000 or so of my team's fans to try and out sing and out shout the other side's 45,000 or so fans. We won that battle, in my very biased opinion, but we lost the match. The cough was quite unpleasant at times, but the hoarse voice afterwards is all part and parcel of going to the match. I did notice after my team scored and I was shouting "Yes" (or something) at the top of my voice that I, to put it the most useless way possible, felt funny. I sort of felt light headed or faint or something, hard to explain, but it passed very quickly. Sometimes when I shout at a football game I feel as if I can taste blood just after. I don't see any blood, but there's a definite taste of it, which passes very quickly. Three days later we played the same team again in a different competition but at our own ground and as an evening kick off. Time for revenge, so more shouting and singing even though the cough felt slightly worse. We got three goals, they got none, we got revenge, I got that taste of blood again after shouting about the goals. That "feeling funny" thing happened again too. Eight days later we had another game at our own ground, a massive game against our arch rivals. This was a European game, a night game, a game against the old enemy. Those three things on their own tend to make things louder but all three together - well it felt louder than it has for 25 years. The cold and cough had been getting worse rather than better and if it hadn't been such a massive game I probably would have given my ticket to someone else. I felt quite unwell, I also felt quite tired, this cough had been keeping me awake at night getting on for a month now and I was thinking it might be time to go and see the doctor with it. For now though there was a football match to win - and a part for us to play in that. Our fans stood and sang non stop for 90 minutes - well, non stop apart from the shouting. We shouted at the officials, we shouted at their players if we thought it was a foul, we shouted encouragement to our own players, we shouted louder than ever when we scored. Twice. I couldn't sing every song this time because I'd find myself coughing when I tried but I sang a lot of them and the shouting is hard to stop doing, it's an instinctive reaction and when you're in a real cauldron like that and the adrenaline is pumping. Again, the taste of blood after the goals, again the feeling funny thing. I had full voice rest on the trai
JB77 - 28-Mar-16 @ 9:21 AM
WOW. I used this for my school project, very cool!
Seabass - 10-Mar-16 @ 9:59 PM
Fussy Peach - Your Question:
I went to a concert and screamed for almost 2 hours. This was a week ago and I still sound hoarse. Is this normal?

Our Response:
Has it improved at all? If not, and if your symptoms persist then I should consult your GP.
ThroatProblems - 25-Sep-15 @ 3:07 PM
I went to a concert and screamed for almost 2 hours.This was a week ago and I still sound hoarse. Is this normal?
Fussy Peach - 25-Sep-15 @ 12:03 AM
Hi i used to sing/scream in a rock band.now when i sing i cant feel the changing of notes to be honest i cant feel anything when i sing now.i went to a throat doctor got a camera down my nose to look at my vocal cords he said i had thinning vocal cords my question is would this be the cause of why i can no longer feel anything in my throat when i sing?or have i stretched the largyx away from my vocal cords i once read that a rock singer i like was told to stop screaming cause the largyx drops again at 27 an if you keep screaming your largyx will drop away from your vocal cords by quarter of an inch an thats the end of your singing creating songs.i read this info after i damaged my voice..what i want to know is can i fix it?
scotty - 16-Jul-15 @ 2:26 AM
@JazzSingerPM - Nodules and polyps may be treated medically, through surgical removal (if they are large), but also behaviourally, which would involve stopping the vocal abuse from the likes of shouting etc. As specified in the article, if someone repeatedly misuses their voice by shouting, screaming or just straining to be heard on a day to day basis, the vocal cords then suffer more long term damage and frequently develop swellings or nodules. Perhaps, you two siblings need to be kinder to one another and good luck in training your voice back to the way it used to be.
ThroatProblems - 20-Apr-15 @ 12:00 PM
I love to sing for fun.I used to take singing lessons, studying classical, years ago, and had a high, coloratura range.Recently, for the past few years, I have been under severe stress due to job loss, parental sickness and living with a sibling who drives me crazy every day.I shout now at her about 70% of the time I engage with her in any way, because she is 1) constantly critical of me, 2) quite pedantic and lecturing, 3) asks the SAME question multiple times....she never listens the first time, and 4) she brings up past fights and problems, which have already been discussed, over and over.And, she often brings up complaints from 20, 30, 40, 47 years ago (even when I was 5).And, she pits me against my mother all the time. I would move out in a second if I could afford it, but I can't. From all the yelling,my once beautiful speaking and singing voice have been ruined. My throat sounds croaky in the morning (it NEVER used to do so, even in the AM).And, as far as singing goes, I can't even sing middle register with any facility, let alone the upper register.However, I can produce super high notes when I am actually singing, but, the range and healthy, open, mellifluous nature of my voice is not there. If I have polyps, can they be removed?If I stop yelling, which will be extremely difficult as long as I live with this demon, can my vocal chords clear up on their own, and be restored so that I can produce the sounds I did before?
JazzSingerPM - 17-Apr-15 @ 2:56 PM
Informative. I got keep my mouth shut for a day atleast to recover
reddi - 11-Apr-12 @ 5:43 AM
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