Vanderbilt Voice Center seeing 'steady stream' of former COVID patients

Posted at 6:20 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 21:57:11-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Since country superstar Trisha Yearwood was diagnosed with COVID, some are turning their attention to local musicians affected by the virus.

But for doctor Gaelyn Garrett of the Vanderbilt Voice Center, the news brings to light what experts already know.

"There's nothing that's new that we're seeing with these patients, but we're just seeing it come in a different way," she said.

The most common way is through indirect impacts, including strained vocal cords from coughing, or in extreme cases, inflammation of tissue around the vocal cords from being put on a ventilator.

"So it's not a direct COVID effect, but it's an indirect- it's a downstream impact that we're seeing," said Garrett.

While her patients include performers, they also include those who rely on their voice for a living like preachers and educators. "The good news is, is the huge majority of people that have COVID- even the ones that end up having pneumonia, or end up having a lingering cough- the majority of those people are not going to have ongoing damage."

To protect their vocal cords, Garrett said COVID patients should focus on "vocal hygiene", which includes plenty of hydration, avoiding caffeine, and avoiding drying medications if possible.

Garrett says in most cases COVID may alter the mechanics of vocal cords, but not the structure. "Boy that's a much easier thing to fix than to see something on the vocal cords that requires potentially surgery."

However, she said we may not learn the future long-term impacts of the virus until months or even years down the road.