10 Ways To Prevent Harming Your Voice
... Including When To See Your Doctor
January 29, 2015
By Dory Rigopoulos Kafoure, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech Pathologist / Voice Coach / Singing Rehab Specialist
What could be more important than keeping your voice healthy?
Letís first talk about the natural state of the vocal folds.
Optimally, there is always a thin layer of mucus at the vocal folds. This thin layer is needed to keep the vocal folds working in a healthy manner.
If the body isnít sufficiently hydrated, the mucus doesnít get thinner as you might think. It gets thicker, which in turn causes the vocal folds to work harder to execute movement and vibrate.
Preventing a voice issue is much easier than waiting until you have an issue and then trying to resolve it.
So what can you do to keep your voice healthy and ready to perform at its most optimal level?
Drinking lots of water is a must.
Keep in mind that the water you drink will lubricate your mouth and throat, but never touches the vocal cords. This is because the vocal cords lie above the trachea. Water goes down your esophagus.
The vocal folds are a low priority organ, which means you must keep your intake of water at a high level (6-8 eight ounce glasses/day) to ensure your vocal cords receive hydration.
Also remember that the water you drank a few days ago is helping your voice now - not the water you drank an hour ago.
Steam goes directly to the vocal folds.
Look in your local drug store for a steam inhaler. The one I like is made by Vicks. Use distilled water. Do not add menthol. Inhale through the nose and out through the mouth. The ideal frequency is 2x/day for 5 minutes.
Inhaling in the shower also counts. If you travel, turn on the shower when you get to your hotel room to humidify the room.
3. DONíT DRY OUT THE VOICE
Drying to the voice is air conditioning, flying on planes, drinking alcohol, carbonated drinks, caffeine, and medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, and cough drops with menthol.
Never use anything that numbs the throat, such as chloraseptic. It can give a false sense of what youíre doing vocally, causing you to compensate with undesirable vocal actions.
4. SALINE/SINUS RINSE OR NETI POT
This is useful for dryness, sinus pressure/congestion, headaches, coughs or nasal drainage.
5. DRINKING LIQUIDS
Liquids should be at room temperature or warm. Avoid hot or cold.
6. CONSERVE VOICE USE
Be careful in social events while talking above background noise, the amount of time on your cell phone, and shouting at an event,
Also, keep your neck warm if out in cold weather.
Think of having a Ďvoice bank.' You only have so much $ (voice) in your bank. How much voice use are you using up throughout the day?
Assign a money amount for the demand on your voice. For example, shouting, using your voice loudly or coaching your childís game uses up a great amount in your bank. How much do you have left in your vocal bank for today or tomorrow?
Donít overbook yourself. Give your voice time to rest.
7 DIET, SLEEP and EXERCISE
Yes, they all affect the voice. Avoid foods containing milk products, as they increase mucous.
Also refrain from eating late at night. And stay away from foods that are fatty or spicy close to voice use.
8. WHEN TO SEE THE DOCTOR
Two weeks is usually the guide for seeing your doctor after a cold or laryngitis if your voice is still hoarse or has not returned.
If youíre a singer and you notice a loss of high/low notes, difficulty singing staccato notes, significant delays with the onset of phonation, or stopping during phonation, see your ENT (Otolaryngologist, also known as Ear, Nose and Throat).
Know your own voice and follow your gut. There are many ENTís that are reputable.
A Laryngologist is an Otolaryngologist who specializes in the voice, so if you can see one thatís great. Keep your ears open. Ask your friends or doctors for recommendations.
When you cough, the vocal folds come together abruptly. If you have a chronic cough or a hard cough for a period of time you may injure your vocal cords.
To avoid the cough you can take a sip of water, say an Ďhí sound or hum to see if you can get rid of a tickle or move phlegm off the vocal cords.
Symptoms include feeling as if thereís a lump or pain in your throat when swallowing, laryngitis, hoarseness, heartburn, or a sour taste in your mouth. Consult your doctor when this occurs.
Dory Rigopoulos Kafoure is a speech pathologist, voice coach and singing rehab specialist who helps actors and voice actors with articulation (diction), breathing techniques, accent reduction and voice improvement. Working in this field for 34 years, she is licensed and has a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), and has done extra study and certification in the areas of voice "which is my passion and specialty." With basic training in articulation, language, voice and stuttering, she is a Lessac Voice and Body Kinisensics Practitioner, clinically trained in LMRVT (for resonant voice) and LSVT (for Parkinson's voice), trained in Estill Voice Treatment, and is currently learning Vibrant Voice Technique.
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