In her early 20s, the very thing most fundamental to Jessi Teich’s career started to turn against her: Her voice.

The aspiring singer-songwriter, based in Philadelphia, started having pain while teaching 40 private voice students per week, in addition to singing at home for herself. She noticed she couldn’t sing for as long as she used to, and lost about an octave and a half in her high range.

“By the time 5 or 6 o’clock hit, I sounded like a frog,” Teich, now 26, said. “It hurt so much to talk. And all my neck muscles, my laryngeal muscles, were all knotted up.”

A singing career isn’t only challenging in terms of producing good music, getting discovered and gaining popularity. Overworking your voice, using improper techniques or straining yourself while otherwise ill can can cause long-term damage, experts say.

“I try to talk to people about not singing when you have a sore throat, and you have a cold,” said John Deaver, voice coach to Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles since 2005, who has also worked with Cher and other celebrities.

No one can sing all day, every day, without feeling hoarse. When the voice starts to get raspy, that’s your voice telling you that you should shut up, said Jonathan Retzlaff, associate professor of voice at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.

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