How does smoking impact my voice?

Kenneth Altman, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
Everything you inhale passes right across the vocal cords. The vocal cords, (whose easy vibration creates your voice), react to irritants like allergens, dry air, dust, chemical odors, reflux, etc. The burning end of a cigarette is 451 degrees Fahrenheit (remember Ray Bradbury?). By the time that air reaches 17-20 cm down your throat it has cooled-off some, but is still hot enough to irritate the delicate vocal folds. Not only that, but the tar and other irritants in the smoke cause swelling and other reactions on the cover of the cords. Repeated, long-term smoking of course causes tissue changes in the voice, also known as dysplasia or cancer. The first sign of glottic cancer (throat cancer) is a hoarse voice, not pain or coughing up blood. A study in the VA showed that when doctors referred their patients with hoarse voices that were not caused by upper respiratory infections (lasting more than 2 weeks) on to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctors for a look at the voice, the stage at which throat cancers were discovered dropped significantly compared to those who were not referred on, and survival rates increased.
Smokers are at risk of developing swelling of the area near the vocal cords which control your voice. In addition, inhaling the harsh smoke from cigarettes can permanently damage the vocal cords.
According to a post at the New York University Medical School answer center, smoking and exposure to smoke irritate and dry the tissues of the throat, particularly the vocal cords. This leads to improper vocal cord vibration and function. Smoking also may promote acid reflux, which can affect the vocal cords. Finally, smoking degrades lung function, which affects the voice by decreasing airflow through the vocal cords.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Smoking causes two derangements to your vocal chords. One is inflammation which gives you that hoarse raspy sound and two is it causes polyp formation the outcome of that inflammation and that polyp formation can give you a very soft or less than strong voice.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.