By Mitch Rice
Singing seems like a lot of fun but when it’s your profession, and you’re singing all the time, it can take its toll on your vocal cords. Here are 10 famous singers that have had to undertake vocal surgery…
Each year, several famous singers undergo vocal surgery, to repair their most coveted instrument and make sure the damage doesn’t end their career.
Vocal surgery can be incredibly intrusive and unless you sing for your career or a fighting a life-threatening illness, you may want to think twice before going under the knife. The surgeries come with several complications and risks, such as anaesthetic awareness and cardiac arrest, and take a great deal of time to recover from.
In this post, we’re going to briefly discuss what vocal surgery is before listing 10 famous singers who have undergone the operation to repair their voices.
What is Vocal Surgery and Why Do Famous Singers Go Under the Knife?
Singing involves millions of micro-collisions inside the throat which, over time, can cause cysts, polyps, and nodules to form on the vocal cords. These collisions can distort the sound being created and cause a wobble in the voice; a key sign that something is wrong.
If this problem persists, the lesions on the vocal cords can burst and bleed, causing voice-ruining scars. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that famous singers undergo vocal surgery out of fear that they might lose their singing voice altogether.
To combat this issue, several different types of vocal surgeries have been developed to keep singers’ vocal cords in good condition:
- Microscopic Laryngeal Surgery – precision removal of the growths on the singer’s cords.
- Angiolytic KTP Laser – using a flexible laryngoscope to laser off growths that keep returning.
- Medialization Laryngoplasty – an injection of material into the vocal cords that provides support and reduces the gap between the cords.
- Thyroplasty – implanting silicon into the vocal fold to push it towards the midline of the neck.
- Laryngeal Reinnervation – creates a new, functioning nerve supply to paralysed vocal cords.
The singers we discuss in the next section have all been through one of these procedures to fix their damaged vocal cords.
Which Famous Singers Have Undergone Vocal Surgery?
Now that we understand why famous singers undergo vocal surgeries, and what these surgeries might look like, it’s time to look at which singers have undergone them.
1. Michael Bublé
Michael Bublé has been singing since he was 17 years old when his voice started to show signs of long-term damage.
In 2016, Bublé had to call off several performances because of his injured vocal cords. Not long after, he pulled out of the distinguished Canadian Governor General Performance Arts Award Gala to undergo vocal surgery.
The Canadian singer was understandably worried that his singing career would be over once he’d undergone this surgery, but thankfully it was successful and Bublé was back.
Adele is known for her powerful voice, but few people know that she suffered a vocal haemorrhage back in 2011 and had to undergo vocal cord microsurgery. The surgery was a success, and the singer was able to continue her busy concert schedule with minimal interruption.
Despite this success, Adele’s vocal cords began struggled again and in 2017, she had to cancel her concerts before taking a long five-year hiatus. Thankfully, Adele bounced back and has a new album that’s set to be released later this year.
3. Steven Tyler
The Aerosmith frontman underwent laser vocal surgery in 2006 after his vocal cord blood vessels ruptured. The band had to cancel a total of 16 gigs and ultimately end their tour.
Nevertheless, Tyler’s vocal cord surgery was a success, and he was performing again in a matter of months.
4. Julie Andrews
Everyone’s favourite Sound of Music Star underwent vocal surgery in 1997 to remove a cyst on her vocal cords.
Not long after, Andrews underwent a second surgery to remove non-cancerous nodules from her vocal cords which left her with permanent damage. This was, unfortunately, one of the rare occasions where a singer’s voice couldn’t be saved by vocal surgery.
In 2008, Bjork was diagnosed with vocal cord nodules, but the singer left them as they were and performed stretching techniques to combat the damage. Four years later these nodules started affecting her singing voice and Bjork had to undergo laser vocal surgery.
After three weeks of silence to give her vocal cords a rest, the singer announced that her voice was as good as new.
6. John Mayer
John Mayer has undergone two vocal cord surgeries throughout his career, one in 2011 and another one shortly after in 2012.
The first of these surgeries, to remove a polyp growth on his vocal cords, was carried out carelessly and left the singer more miserable than before. In 2012 Mayer had a second round of surgery that was more successful but left him in a lot of pain.
After injecting his throat with Botox to paralyse it and give it time to heal completely, Mayer started singing again in 2013.
7. Sam Smith
At the very beginning of his career in 2015, Sam Smith had to undergo surgery to treat unstable blood vessels in his vocal cords. This surgery was incredibly delicate and if it wasn’t performed correctly, Smith could’ve lost his voice for good.
The surgery was successful, but Smith had to face issues with his vocal cords again in 2019 which appear to be stable for now.
8. Meghan Trainor
Meghan Trainor credits Sam Smith for convincing her to get vocal surgery after cancelling several tour dates in 2017. Trainor said that her voice came back stronger than ever and she’s been complimented on how much her voice has grown ever since.
9. Keith Urban
Keith Urban had surgery to remove a polyp and a nodule from his vocal cords in 2012. Like Trainor, the Australian-American country singer said that the surgery improved his singing ability.
10. Miley Cyrus
Our final famous singer whose undergone vocal surgery is Miley Cyrus. In late 2019 Cyrus was hospitalised for tonsilitis and her doctors discovered she had Reinke’s edema, a ‘sac-like’ build-up of fluid in the vocal cords that causes a hoarse voice.
Despite having this condition for years without knowing, a successful vocal surgery cleared the issue up and Cyrus was back on the mic.
Are These the Only Famous Singers to Undergo Vocal Surgery?
In this post, we’ve shared 10 famous singers who’ve undergone vocal surgery, but with vocal issues becoming commonplace amongst singers, hundreds more will likely have to undergo surgery at some point in their careers.
Hopefully, this article has shed some light on vocal cord surgeries, and what to look out for in the future.
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