How Does Smoking Damage Your Voice?
Many tend to associate the hoarseness of one’s voice with the number of cigarettes they smoke or how long they have been smoking. While this might be based on observational elements, research studies have a lot to say when it comes to the smoking effect on the voice.
Does Smoking Damage Your Voice?
The short answer to this question is “Yes.”
A hoarse voice from smoking is fairly common among smokers. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of compounds, including those found in cigarettes and cigars. Your vocal cords may be irritated by those toxins. When you inhale smoke, it passes right through your vocal cords and into your lungs. The vocal cords are the lungs’ entry points109.
The long answer to how smoking damage your voice is presented in the sections to follow based on research studies.
How Does Smoking Damage Your Voice?
A variety of elements influence the physiology of healthy voice production, including:
- sound/voice strength
- quality of sound/voice
- fluidity in the sound/voice.
Changes in the anatomical structure of the larynx, on the other hand, might generate functional issues and, as a result, can negatively affect voice production, leading to vocal disorders. Here is what smoking does:
- Smoking has been identified as a significant risk factor for voice health. Smoking, for example, can lead to severe laryngeal illness.
- Smokers were more likely to have a laryngeal illness compared to non-smokers.
- Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop cancers, such as oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer, and laryngeal cancer.
Other Ways Smoking Might Damage your Voice According to Research Studies:
- Excessive smoking can irritate and dry the vocal cords' mucosa.
The voice chords may become inflamed as a result and can produce coughing, phlegm, and irritation of the vocal cords. Smoking also increases the vocal cords' weight, lowering the fundamental frequency. All these and more can result in a change in voice110.
- Voice parameters between smokers and non-smokers are significantly different.
When young smokers were compared to young non-smokers, some voice parameters were significantly affected, most likely as a result of histological alterations caused by nicotine. Smoking for a short period of time - less than a decade – has a noticeable effect on various voice characteristics. Similar findings were then corroborated, accentuating, “Our findings clearly demonstrate the effect of smoking on the voice: smokers reported more voice complaints111.”
- Smoking impacts voice quality:
In a study that sampled only female participants to study their smoking habits and voice quality, researchers reported there were significant differences in acoustic characteristics between smokers and nonsmokers. The findings of this investigation revealed noticeable changes in the voice acoustic features of young individuals who had started smoking at a young age112. In another study that had males as participants, the researchers revealed, when compared to non-smoking males, smokers had a lower speaking fundamental frequency and a creakier voice, and the pitch looked to be reversible for smokers who quit113.
In conclusion, the ‘Smoker’s Voice’ is not a myth. Smoking damages your voice. Quitting smoking goes hand in hand with regaining your voice114. You can witness changes in just a few weeks. Nonetheless, vocal cord and larynx discomfort may take up to a few months to resolve. Consider Nicotine Replacement Therapy and some counseling to speed up and facilitate the process of quitting smoking.
Check out some of the 8 health complications caused by smoking, here.
- 109 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-smokers-voice-real
- 110 Byeon, H., & Cha, S. (2020). Evaluating the effects of smoking on voice and subjective voice problems using a meta-analysis approach. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1-8.
- 111 Ayoub, M. R., Larrouy-Maestri, P., & Morsomme, D. (2019). The effect of smoking on the fundamental frequency of the speaking voice. Journal of Voice, 33(5), 802-e11.
- 112 Tafiadis, D., Toki, E. I., Miller, K. J., & Ziavra, N. (2017). Effects of early smoking habits on young adult female voices in Greece. Journal of Voice, 31(6), 728-732.
- 113 Verdonck-de Leeuw, I. M., & Mahieu, H. F. (2004). Vocal aging and the impact on daily life: a longitudinal study. Journal of Voice, 18(2), 193-202.
- 114 https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2020/Q4/tis-the-season-to-resolve-to-quit-smoking-and-save-your-voice.html