Entertainment industry in India might be experiencing unprecedented growth, but professional singers pay a price. They suffer voice loss. That seems to be particularly the case in the northern region.
Bhojpuri singer Satyendra Kumar, 24, visits New Delhi from a small town in Bihar for voice treatment every two months. Doctors say the long hours of singing are taking a toll on his vocal chords.
Of the 25 patients who come to the speech clinic at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the national capital every week, 50 per cent are professional voice users. "Besides singers, there are television anchors, teachers, call-centre employees and radio jockeys," says Dr KK Handa, associate professor, ENT department at AIIMS.
Thanks to the popularity of music talent hunts, aspiring singers like Satyendra, even child prodigies, are losing their voices. The pressure to perform and long hours of practice are the biggest causes.
A young winner at a popular music talent hunt approached a city doctor for voice correction a couple of years ago. "The boy of seven was made to devote eight hours to sing a day. We had to counsel the parents before the child. Unrealistic ambitions and lack of knowledge were playing havoc with the child," says Dr Handa.
Repeated abuse of voice often leads to development of nodules and polyps in vocal chords. If not treated in time, it could lead to permanent damage, reports the Hindustan Times.
The US-based National Center for Voice and Speech has noted, "Assaults from the environment - pollution, sudden changes in humidity or exposure to pharmacological agents - can make vocal fold tissues irritated or vulnerable to damage. In other cases, disease or trauma impairs the vocal folds, larynx or surrounding tissues. Genetic factors also play a role; some individuals' vocal folds appear to be naturally more robust than others. Finally lifestyle choices are significant.
"About 25 percent of the population engages in work that is "vocally demanding." For these individuals, either their jobs require excessive vocalization or their work environments force them to speak above a high noise level. Examples of professionals with heavy vocal demands include: teachers, lawyers, auctioneers, aerobic instructors, singers, actors and manufacturing supervisors.
"These factors, or a combination of them, converge on an organ whose primary function is not voice production at all, but airway protection. It should come as no surprise that clinics see an increasing number of patients whose vocal systems are mismatched to the load being placed upon them. Patients often report significant work loss and early abandonment of careers in occupations with high voice use.
"Historically, speech-language pathologists and otolaryngologists encouraged their patients to allow their voices to rest. However, sometimes this simple advice isn't feasible. Telling a politician not to talk is like telling a football player not to get tackled or a ballerina not to get on her toes.
For this reason, an emphasis should go beyond therapy, or rehabilitation. Training in optimal usage of the voice under less than ideal circumstances, or habilitation, is also a task set before the speech-language pathologist specializing in vocology."
Dr Ameet Kishore, senior consultant at Apollo Hospital, receives about five patients with voice problems a week. "We often have to guide patients about using their voice in the correct manner," he says.