One of the reasons I don’t like loud parties and clubs is at the end of the night, my voice is shot. Since I make my living by talking, I can’t afford downtown when it comes to my voice. Same thing with singers like Liam Gallagher and Adele–yet they seem to have recurring voice issues. Why? The Guardian takes a look.
“I don’t even know how to start this,” Adele wrote in an online letter to fans on 30 June. The previous night, she had played the second show of a sold-out, four-night residency at Wembley Stadium. These dates, in front of audiences of 98,000, were supposed to be the triumphant conclusion of her record-setting, 123-date world tour. But on stage, something had just felt wrong.
“I’ve struggled vocally both nights,” she wrote. “I had to push a lot harder than I normally do. I felt like I constantly had to clear my throat.” After the second show, Adele went to see her doctor, who told her she had damaged her vocal cords and had no option but to cancel her remaining shows. The most powerful young voice in the music business had fallen silent. “To say I’m heart broken would be a complete understatement,” she wrote.
Though only 29, Adele had been here before. Six years earlier, she had suffered a haemorrhage to her vocal cords after singing live on a French radio program. In order to repair the injury, she underwent an incredibly delicate, high-risk medical intervention: vocal cord microsurgery. In this operation, the surgeon wields miniature scalpels and forceps attached to foot-long poles that are guided down the throat to excise whatever damaged tissue is robbing the vocal cords of their elasticity, and depriving the voice of its natural timbre, range and clarity.
Adele’s surgeon, Dr Steven Zeitels, was after a nasty polyp that had formed under her epithelium, the thin outer layer of the vocal cord. Zeitels carefully snipped the layer with a scalpel, and then, with forceps, pulled back the tissue like a flap, exposing the polyp below. With a second set of forceps he pulled out the gooey, infected mass, and zapped the remaining haemorrhaged surface with a laser to stop the bleeding and prevent scarring.
The margin for error in such surgeries is measured in fractions of a millimetre.