Sounds like an oxymoron, but World Voice Day gives us a chance to consider the benefits of silence. Your larynx is in constant motion. Every time you breathe or swallow, your larynx moves, so unlike most other parts of the body, the larynx is never truly “at rest.” Here are a few thoughts on maintaining vocal health through the acronym of SILENCE.
by Wendy LeBorgne, Ph.D,CCC-SLP
S – Shhh! Performers are generally vocally-enthusiastic folks. Consider decreasing your vocal volume in conversation…but never whisper. Imagine you are always talking to someone about an arm’s length distance away from you.
I – Injury. Silence –– i.e., complete voice rest –– is often recommended for a period of time following vocal fold surgery to allow the laryngeal wound to heal appropriately. Check with your surgeon regarding length of time for complete vocal rest. Complete voice rest means no laughing, talking, whispering, or coughing –– as those are all voiced behaviors.
L – Less is more. Although we think of commercial or any non-classical music as often being loud and edgy, sometimes less is more. Remember that almost all commercial music (e.g., jazz, pop, R&B, etc.) is amplified. Use the full palette of dynamics and colors in your voice to make your performance interesting. This technique will also help conserve your voice for those WOW moments.
E – Enthusiasm at sporting events. Find an alternative, such as an air horn or hand clapping, to cheer on your favorite sports team. Loud talking, shouting, and screaming require the vocal folds to move further away from midline and impact harder and longer. Persistent voice use at increased vocal volumes results in trauma to the vocal fold tissue. Repeated phonotrauma (abuse or misuse of the vocal folds) can result in vocal pathologies such as nodules and polyps.
N – Naps. Take a “vocal nap.” Even 5 minutes of being quiet will serve you well. Shut your mouth and give your voice a break for short intervals several times throughout the day.
C – Cell phones. Unlike landlines and headsets, most cell phones don’t have amplification in the earpiece, which means you talk louder than normal when you’re on them. And if you are talking in the car, your volume becomes even louder!
E – Enjoy the peace of being quiet. Use the time to center yourself and your voice. Or take this time to mentally practice your music.