A Singer’s Worse Nightmare – Losing my Voice, Losing my Identity

I lost my voice for 2 years. Had 3 operations on my vocal cords to remove the lesions. It was quite traumatising as I was a really talkative person before and spent most of my 20s and 30s with a sporadic voice. When I had no voice it was the most miserable experience ever. Very isolating and dealing with people who weren’t empathetic was eye opening. I spent my time communicating via typing or writing. Being in virtual meetings was painful.

Elaine Adu-Poku, 4 February 2021

A few weeks ago, I was invited to have a conversation with my friend Zalon Thompson to discuss dealing with my voice loss. For those who have met me in recent years, or heard me on a podcast etc you’ll know my voice has a distinctive huskiness to it. What many of you wouldn’t know is that I lost my voice for 2 years and underwent a number of surgeries to get me to the voice I have now.

Zalon is a multi talented vocal coach and singer who has toured the world, performing soul music. He has worked with Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson and Dionne Bromfield, so it was a pleasure to be invited onto his platform.

Losing my voice, as someone who was known as Little Miss Chatterbox (shout out to Roger Hargreaves for creating his Mr Men and Little Miss Universe) at school, it’s fair to say that my most used form of communication is and always has been my use of speech. Learning to live in silence, communicating using a notepad or typing was quite eye opening. The looks of sympathy, empathy and self appointed doctors with their traditional remedies was appreciated, but also patronising. The response to my muteness was that people would either speak quietly or shout (as if my speech loss was also a sign of hearing loss). I now live in fear that one day my voice may go again, as it’s my kryptonite. Two years after my last surgery and so far any hoarseness I’ve had has been down to speaking too much or an allergy, so long may that continue.

We discussed my journey from frequent through to total voice loss and finally onto my recovery from my three surgeries, as well as people’s reaction to it. My journey included a number of (mis)diagnoses and visits to many hospitals and doctors – experiencing anxiety at thinking it could be something as serious as cancer. In addition, Zalon shared his own experiences of voice loss – hence the title of the video being A Singer’s Worst Nightmare.

The catalyst for this conversation, as mentioned in the video was an article I post I shared on Facebook from The Guardian by John Calapinto. The article resonated with me as even though I am not a singer I could have made an attempt at writing something similar about my voice journey.

For those interested in learning about vocal tube work, check out the video below. It was my rehabilitation for my vocal cords, and is something I continue to do every day as part of ensuring I give my vocal cords the best chance at continuing to be healthy. It is akin to doing cardio to get a healthy heart and as mentioned in my conversation with Zalon is something I continue to do and everyone should do.

Have you ever suffered from prolonged voice loss or undergone surgery to restore your voice?

Also, as mentioned in the video, if you are suffering from voice loss for more than 2 weeks make sure you see a doctor as this isn’t normal and you are your own champion, and know yourself better than anyone. It may not be something sinister but it is always good to get yourself checked out.

Leave any comments you may have below, and if anyone thinks my voice would make me a great candidate for being a voice over artist slide into my DMs 😂. As they say I should shoot my shot right?

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