Living With Vocal Cord Paralysis: This Is Not My Sexy Voice


If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked if I was sick or had laryngitis, I would be a billionaire. I don’t know if it’s just me, because I have a unique perspective on this, but I would never think to ask someone if they were sick unless I knew them personally. It is super annoying, and I can never come up with an easy answer other than, “No, my voice just sounds like this.” And to be completely honest, I don’t know what is worse: being told that my voice sounds terrible and I need to drink some tea, or the reply I sometimes get from middle-aged men — “Oh, so this is your ‘sexy’ voice.” No, my voice has sounded like this my whole life, and this is most definitely not my sexy voice.

I have a glottic web and vocal cord paralysis. My right vocal cord works well, but my left vocal cord does not move. So instead of meeting in the middle like they’re supposed to, my right vocal fold has to swing all the way over to the left side, overcompensating to make noise come out. My voice is a bit breathy, raspy, and tires really quickly because I have to use so much air to produce sound. To combat this, I started seeing a speech language pathologist who gave me tips on how to keep my voice from tiring as quickly, and have actually just seen a surgeon who is going to do a temporary surgical injection in my paralyzed vocal cord to see if that helps.

At times I have found it easier just to say, “Yes, I am sick,” than have to explain why my voice sounds the way it does. I am not opposed to questions, but the most frequent assumption is that I sound like this due to issues that have such negative connotations to them, thereby implying that my voice sounds bad.

There have also been rare moments that have put a smile on my face, when someone has commented on how nice my voice is, how soothing it is, and how great it is to hear when we live in a society where people feel the need to be heard all the time. While I don’t want to discourage questioning, I would like to eventually get to a place where it isn’t assumed that I am sick, but calm and quiet.

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Thinkstock photo by ValuaVitaly.

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