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Whilst performing in the USA on a Simon & Garfunkel reunion tour Art suddenly Lost the ability to be able to sing. Mid-song the singer’s voice vanished which caused immediate worry and panic. Subsequently he was diagnosed with partial paralysis of his vocal cords, meaning that he not only had to withdraw from the rest of the tour but also take a significant amount of time away from the industry to recover.
The star’s shocking diagnosis took four years to recover from, and even on his return to the stage, he struggled for the first 30 to 40 shows.
The Mayo Clinic explains that vocal cord paralysis occurs when the nerve impulses to your voice box are disrupted.
Vocal cords are responsible for allowing us to speak, but they also protect the airways from food, drink and saliva from entering the windpipe.
Individuals with vocal cord paralysis may have trouble when coughing, swallowing and sneezing as waste from the area is harder to remove. This then leads to accumulations of waste in the area, making you more vulnerable to subsequent infections and throat discomfort.
Art’s mid-range and elusive high notes became extremely affected by the condition. Talking about the condition he said: “When my voice went south, I couldn’t sing or talk. I don’t know why.
“When I do shows now, I thank God in the middle of the first song.”
Luckily for the singer, he did not suffer from total vocal cord paralysis which eventually can lead to severe pneumonia and massively increases the risk of choking.
The Mayo Clinic explain that signs and symptoms of vocal cord paralysis include:
- A breathy quality to the voice
- Noisy breathing
- Loss of vocal pitch
- Choking or coughing while swallowing food, drink or saliva
- The need to take frequent breaths while speaking
- Inability to speak loudly
- Loss of your gag reflex
- Ineffective coughing
- Frequent throat clearing.
In order to try and avoid permanent damage the icon also gave up smoking marijuana after being a heavy smoker for multiple years.
Despite his efforts the star went through a painfully slow recovery process and only began to sing softly after 18 months.
Art added: “It slowly returned in 2011 and then was pretty much back by 2014. So, like never before, I love the fun of doing it.
“I give myself credit for kicking my ass onto the stage and singing, even if I wasn’t quite ready. I’m grateful to God. I delight in hearing that Artie Garfunkel sound coming out of my mouth.”
Therapy, surgery or a combination of both are usually recommended. Voice therapy is the equivalent of physical therapy for large muscle paralysis.
The therapist asks the patient to do special exercises and some other activities to strengthen their vocal cords, improve their breath and control while speaking.
In Art’s case, he partly credits vocal exercises sent to him by San Diego-bred singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop for helping him get back on track.
Surgical options include bulk injection, phonosurgery or a tracheotomy which all aim to help individuals breathe easier and help the vocal cord muscles to move more effectively.
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