Are you at risk for losing your voice?
Do you talk all day? Do you compete with noise when you speak? Are you a teacher? Are you a parent? Are you an actor or singer? Are you a receptionist? Are you a realtor? Are you a salesperson? Are you an instructor of an exercise group? Are you a coach? The list is endless…basically, all of us are at risk!
Your vocal folds are in contact with each other many hundreds of times per second, creating friction. Keeping your body hydrated helps cool your internal mechanism and also thins out secretions that moisten the delicate vocal folds. Drink water and other non-caffeinated beverages. If you drink caffeinated, add one more glass of water to balance the ratio.
Keep a container of water with you all day for remaining hydrated. Learn how much your body needs each day.
Use Your Best Voice
Position yourself near your communicative partner. If you are in a group or situation where you are in a large space (playground, lecturing, outside, exercise area), consider using amplification.
Avoid speaking loudly, harshly, whispering or “playing” with your voice to make “funny or scary” sounds. YES, whispering is NOT the solution as it creates a drying effect on the delicate tissue of the vocal folds. It also tends to increase muscular tension and effort while you are using your vocal mechanism.
Amplification systems will protect your voice in many ways. Use a personal amplification system or one built into your speaking environment.
Rest your voice! This is a challenge, but try to set aside at least five minutes of silence every hour. Some find aiming for a specific time each hour works as a reminder. Many set their phone for an extra prompt until it becomes habit.
Breathing Matters! Use your abdomen to project your voice this will decrease the stress and strain on your upper body, including your throat and hence your vocal cords. Breathe through your nose, especially in cold weather, as this allows for warmer and moistened air to be used.
Correct posture use improves your respiratory function (breathing) which works to decrease misuse/abuse of your voice.
Avoid Throat Clearing or Coughing! See more below
Allergies can cause increased hoarseness due to post nasal drip, dryness from nasal sprays or other medications. Allergies may also increase throat clearing.
Noise requiring one to talk louder increases one’s misuse of their voice your body may work to soothe the irritation. Think about creating the best environment so that you can use the least amount of effort to speak.
Physical Strain will also increase your risk of vocal misuse/abuse by increasing the tension in your upper body/throat.
Talking Too Long will also increase your risk of vocal misuse/abuse by increasing the tension in your upper body/throat.
Talking Too Loudly for a sustained period, even a short period, will also increase your risk of vocal misuse/abuse by increasing the tension in your upper body/throat.
Talking Too Much on a Single Breath adds strain and tension and increases your risk of vocal misuse/abuse by increasing the tension in your upper body/throat.
Laryngophrayngeal Reflux appears to be more of a contributing factor than Gastroesophageal . If you have a history of reflux, speak with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment to keep the “acids” off your vocal cords.
What should you do?
Follow the above suggestions, strive for a healthy life style, AND
Avoid Throat Clearing/Coughing
The cycle of clearing your throat and coughing goes something like this.
- You feel the need to clear your throat due to thick mucous, an “itch”, irritation, or post nasal drip.
- Your body then secretes protective mucous to soothe the irritation caused by your throat clearing.
- You then clear your throat, but this time with more force.
- The cycle continues and increase vocal cord irritation, damage, and hoarseness.
Rather than clearing your throat, swallow hard or take a sip of water or other non-caffeinated liquid and swallow. Repeat as necessary. It may not seem less effective, but it is not. Sip some more and after a short period of time, it will become a healthier habit. Therefore, HYDRATE and HYDRATE some more.
When should you seek medical attention?
At any time you have concerns, experience discomfort or pain, trouble swallowing, or notice a change in your voice, consult your primary care physician and/or an otolaryngologist for an appointment as soon as possible. Remember, if you experience hoarseness for more than a week, you should schedule an examination. Medical clearance is required before beginning Speech-Language Pathology services.
How can a Speech-Language Pathologist Help?
Learn more here from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Lori Savage Grayson, MMSc, CCC-SLP, FSL is the Director/Founder of Children’s Communication Center and has been practicing in the field of SLP since 1979. For non-medical communication concerns Ms. Grayson established the Corporate Speech & Communication Services.
Contact us to learn more about our SLP services for voice/vocal needs or other communication concerns.