What's robbing Adele, Céline Dion and more singers of their voices

What's robbing Adele, Céline Dion and more singers of their voices
From CBC - January 27, 2018

Canadian jazz singer Sophie Milman has a close relationship with her doctor. It makes sense, given she'sthe person that inserts a steroid directly into Milman's vocal cords with a needle.

Dr. Jennifer Anderson is one of a handful of doctors in Canada that specialize in relieving vocal cord strain,which is increasingly becoming an issue for singers. From opera singers to Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy, performers like Milman cometothe vocal clinic atthe St. Michael's Hospitalin Toronto looking for solutions.

"I have had times when I left here in tears," Milman said. "I usually do not cry in front of Jennifer."

The music industry is placingmore pressure on singers to perform live and audiences are craving big, bold vocals a potentially dangerous combination.

ClineDion and Shakira both recently cancelled concerts because of voice issues. Sam Smith, Adele, andMichael Bublwere all forced to put their careers on pause due to vocal cord strain.

Vibrating a 1,000 times a second

It all comes down to the delicate membranes of tissue in a person's throat.As we exhale, air passes over vocal folds that vibrate 100 to 1,000 times a second, creating sound.But when vocal cords are strained, they swell.At first, singers may feel fatigued and their sound can become breathy because the vocal folds no longer close properly.

Milman remembers when vocal strain caught up with her. Two weeks after giving birth to her daughter, she was back in the studio for a recording session. Not long after, she travelled to Italy to perform. Soon she started feeling off.

"I attributed it all to fatigue and then I found it increasingly difficult to speak, let alone sing," Milman said.

At Anderson's clinic,she was diagnosed with vocal cord swelling. Left untreated,swelling can lead to polyps that can rupture, requiring surgery.

In November, when Milman'svocal cords were swollen, Anderson carefully insertedtwo drops of a steroid into her vocal cords, using anendoscopic camera to target the affected area.

"It's very site specific. Evenone injection will show voice improvement," Anderson said.

As the music industry moves away from physical album sales in favour of streaming, the workload for artist has increased. In 2000, recorded music counted for 53 per cent of the global music industry. By 2016, music sales shrank to 38 per cent with live music accounting for 43 per cent.

As TheWeekndsaid in an interview with Forbes, "We live in a world where artists do not really make the music like we did in the Golden Age. It's not really coming in until you hit the stage."

But Anderson says many musicians starting out are not prepared for the demands of touring. They typically wind up in her examination chair after they fear they have done permanent damage to their voices.

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