Singing is Easier After Deviated Septum Correction Surgery, Research Shows.

According to recent research from the University of Rochester,[1] singing becomes easier for patients who undergo a septoplasty and/or turbinate reduction to correct a deviated septum. After interviewing several professional and semi-professional singers who underwent this corrective surgery, it was discovered that the majority of vocalists who required the surgery for certain medical conditions also benefited in their singing career.

The study asked singers of every voice-type (Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Countertenor, Mezzo-Soprano, and Soprano) who sing primarily opera and oratorio, in addition to musical theatre and jazz, a series of questions to better understand their reaction to surgery. One such question “What did you notice prior to your surgery?” provided a particularly interesting perspective from a soprano:

“Prior to surgery, I breathed mostly with my mouth. I could not breathe through my left nostril whatsoever and it felt like my sinuses were continuously blocked. This left me with no sense of the “masque” in singing and the only “feeling” I had when I sang was of backspace and lower abdominal exertion. The septoplasty was necessary since I had broken my nose when I was younger; it was a bad break that was never fully treated. I underwent a septoplasty… and turbinate reduction. The most significant hindrance related to my singing was my lack of range. I was considered a zwischen or even a lackluster mezzo because I certainly had no top, or at least a reliable one. Because of this, my middle range developed quicker and had a warmer/darker/fuller sound come in. There was a teacher on the west coast who believed that I was a mezzo and who forcibly pushed down my voice, and because I was more adept at the lower end of my range, it could have been entirely possible that I would have turned into a mezzo had I continued that path.”[2]

A coloratura soprano also commented, “Aside from being sick constantly, I always described singing through the sinus issues as feeling like there was a ceiling trying to keep me from my top. I could access the top notes, but it gave me pain in my sinus cavity and felt like extra work. I always knew there was potential for more ring and resonance. I also had trouble breathing through my nose.” But opinions of the voice had a consistent message across various voice types. A professional bass stated, “The masque of my face seemed to fully resonate rather than feel stuck and pinched off. Free intake of air was the biggest difference. The ability to breathe, singing greatly improved, the ability to take in air was greatly enhanced and was much quieter. Nasal sound decreased. The sensation of a resonance in my ‘masque’ also felt better. Fewer sinus infections, [and] normal mucus flow.” A baritone expressed, “I was more frequently able to access masque resonance.” A professional mezzo-soprano said, “[I noticed the] ability to feel masque resonance, [I had an] easier time breathing silently, [and a] less stuffy nose. Singing seemed more difficult at first but then became normal and within a year.”

“Two prominent results of a septoplasty and turbinectomy for singing seem to be improved breathing and better perception of masque resonance,” says Dr. Mitchell Hutchings, Assistant Professor of Voice at Florida Atlantic University. “It is also clear, when given the opportunity to observe a ‘side-by-side’ acoustic analysis, that the speaking voice can change drastically. It is not so implausible then to believe that the beauty of the singing voice can be improved as well.”

Hutchings, an expert on the effects of septoplasty and turbinectomy in the singing voice, underwent these procedures in 2017, and committed to measuring his own vocal qualities prior to and after the surgery. He also took video of himself speaking before and after the septum correction, which exhibits a marked auditory difference in his voice:[3]

© Roger Schmidt

Please provide the author's name in any published quotation from this story. 

[1] Mitchell Hutchings, “Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction Report,” (New York, University of Rochester, 2017)
[2] Ibid, 10
[3] Mitchell Hutchings, Balancing Pressure: The Results of a Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction in a Vocal Performer – A Brief Case Study, (Florida, Florida Atlantic University, 2018).

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