8 Simple Ways to Take Care of your voice

Eastside SpeechGeneral

ways to take care of your voice

The larynx, or voicebox, is a delicate and complex mechanism of muscles, cartilages, ligaments and nerves that work together to produce voicing for speech. Just like any other part of our body, it can be damaged if mistreated or overused – we call this dysphonia, or a voice disorder.

While there are many possible causes for voice problems, the most common is ‘vocal load’. This can include talking (or singing) for extended periods without rest breaks, talking over noise or without proper amplification, or talking when you have a throat infection or in a way that harms your voice. Some people are more at risk of voice problems due to occupational demands; such as teachers, performers, media presenters, lawyers and call centre workers.

Fortunately, taking better care of your voice may only require a few simple lifestyle changes. The following ‘vocal hygiene’ strategies are suggested to encourage optimal voice production and help prevent damage to the vocal cords:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink at least two litres of water per day and avoid dehydrating drinks (e.g. alcohol, caffeine), drugs (e.g. tobacco, marijuana) and medications (e.g. antihistamines, cold and flu medicines)*.
  2. See your GP if you suffer from acid reflux, and avoid foods that may exacerbate symptoms (e.g. acidic or very spicy foods, full-cream dairy products, high-fat foods). Note: These foods are not problematic for everyone. 
  3. Avoid taking inhaled medications (especially menthol-based products) without a spacer, as they can dry the mucosal lining of the voicebox*. See your GP if you suspect any medications are affecting your voice or throat.
  4. Avoid dry, dusty, smokey or polluted environments; and try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
  5. Rest your voice as much and as often as possible when it’s sore, uncomfortable or tired following illness or periods of overuse.
  6. Avoid excessive shouting or attempting to compete with background noise. Instead try turning the music or television down, moving closer to others or using amplification if necessary. Find other ways to attract attention, such as clapping or signalling, instead of yelling.
  7. Avoid excessive coughing and throat clearing. Instead, try swallowing hard or taking a sip of water when you feel the need to cough or clear the throat.
  8. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid general body fatigue. Get sufficient sleep, keep a balanced diet, exercise regularly and manage stress levels.

If you have any concerns about your voice or throat that persist beyond seven days, ask your GP for a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. They may recommend speech therapy for the ongoing management of vocal problems.  *Always consult your GP before making any changes to your regular medications.

References:

Colton, R.H., & Casper, J.K. (1996). Understanding Voice Problems: A Physiological Perspective for Diagnosis and Treatment (2nd ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: Baltimore, Maryland.

Sataloff, R.T. (1997). Professional Voice: The Science and Art of Clinical Care, pages 705-706.

Spiegel, J. R., Hawkshaw, M., & Sataloff, R. T. (2000). Dyphonia related to medical therapy. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America, 33 (4), pp 771-784.

The Voice and Swallowing Institute (2010). Voice Conservation & Vocal Hygiene: Tips for a Healthy Voice. http://www.nyee.edu/cfv-professions.html