What are vocal nodules?
Vocal (cord) nodules, or as they are otherwise known vocal ‘fold’ nodules are masses of tissue that grow on the vocal cords (folds). Typically this mass will appear on the junction of the front and middle two-thirds of the vocal fold, where contact is most pronounced. They can negatively affect your voice when you try to sing and can dramatically impact your chances of success as a professional singer if that is what you wish to pursue. They tend to affect adults more than kids as the condition usually comes from years of strain due to improper singing (or vocalising) technique.
What do they look like?
The nodules usually appear as swellings on both sides of the vocal cords of similar size and shape and can seriously affect the voice.
What are the main causes of vocal nodules?
The cause of these formations are usually the straining of the voice due to yelling, singing with incorrect technique and other abusive voice practices. Singers who sing in loud bars or attend regular loud karaoke sessions without warming up can be at risk. Constant strain can worsen the condition. If you are looking for success as a professional singer or even just a karaoke singer who likes to impress their friends with their voice then you would really want to avoid vocal nodules. If you have kids and they like to sing or wish to become professional singers it is important to get those kids into good technique habits early so they can avoid vocal nodules and have every chance at success. Once you have a good set of exercises for both warming up and ongoing maintenance you will see your range and vocal freedom open up like magic.
What are the most common symptoms of vocal nodules?
Symptoms can include pain, feelings of excess strain, hoarseness, loss of range or pitch or general control, irritation and discomfort and/or frequent vocal ‘breaks’.
Who gets vocal nodules?
Usually people who must project their voice constantly or regularly such as professional singers (when they sing with poor vocal technique), amateur singers, karaoke buffs, actors, teachers, lecturers, military personnel etc. Singers or those of the other previously mentioned vocations who wish to use their voice can become very frustrated if they develop vocal nodules as once you have them they are very difficult to get rid of. Surgery is one option however it comes with risks.
Vocal nodules can inhibit the vocal chords from operating naturally due to the nodules effect of preventing natural vocal cord or fold opening and closure.
Are they dangerous to my general health? Or just the health of my voice?
There is no evidence to suggest that vocal cord nodules are dangerous to a person’s general health however they can be frustrating and can negatively affect the chance of success of people who use their voice professionally e.g. sIngers, speakers etc.
I’m a singer and I’m concerned about keeping my voice healthy long term when I sing, how can I avoid getting vocal nodules?
If you are a singer then the best way to learn how to avoid getting vocal nodules is to educate yourself on proper technique using a proven voice training system. This will ensure that you minimise strain in your voice when you sing. Once you find a vocal technique singing program that helps with the reduction in vocal strain the vocal freedom that you experience can be amazing. Parents should really ensure that their kids are learning how to use correct voice technique to avoid strain from a young age as this is where the problem can start to develop although it may not show up until many years later.
I (the Author) have had personal experience not with vocal nodules thankfully, but with the reduction of strain on the voice that can be the result of proper vocal technique training. I strained my voice for many years and even considered giving up singing altogether, however, after finding the right vocal technique program I was literally astounded at the reduction of strain, improvement of range (3-4 octaves more), vocal stamina, tone improvement, general comfort while singing, dynamic range etc. It was really like night and day. If you are struggling with strain or ‘pulling up’ on high notes when singing I strongly recommend getting a hold of one of the better vocal technique courses available and giving it a good go.
I think I might have vocal cord nodules, what should I do?
If you believe you have vocal nodules you may wish to consult an ear nose and throat specialist doctor otherwise known as an Otorhinolaryngologist, or you may wish to simply monitor the symptoms short term and see if they subside.
For further information on vocal nodules and how to avoid them, suggestions on voice programs for singers including some ‘before and after’ audio recordings go to
Written by Matt McGowen