As World Voice Day approaches (4.16), we want to reiterate a very important message: Protect your voice!
Whether you’re a singer or are involved in a sport, hobby, or job that requires excessive use of your voice, vocal strain or fatigue are potential concerns. Don’t let them become problematic!
Habits and behaviors that can lead to trouble
Baylor University’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences identifies three types of behaviors that can cause vocal problems:
Vocal abuse – Smoking, vaping, dehydration, screaming/yelling, excessive throat clearing and coughing are all considered sources of vocal abuse.
Vocal misuse – Speaking in an unnatural pitch or using vocal or glottal fry (using a low pitch that sounds creaky, buzzy, breathy) can lead to vocal tension and fatigue.
Vocal overuse – Excessive use of your voice without a break is considered vocal overuse.
“Other causes of vocal damage,” shares Baylor, “include certain allergy and sinus infection medications, acid reflux, dry environments, and neurological disorders (such as vocal paresis, a nerve injury).”
How to prevent problems from arising
If you’re a runner, skier, or play sports, you’ve learned (possibly the hard way!) the importance of warming up and cooling down. This is also essential for singers and anyone who uses their voice a great deal.
Baylor therapists and vocal practitioners recommend these vocal exercises:
- Lip trills: Keeping your mouth closed, send air between your lips, allowing them to vibrate while making sound on any note. Take a deep breath beforehand. As you build endurance, trill a familiar song.
- Resonant hums: Resonant humming differs from a regular hum in that it resonates in the face, rather than the throat. Hum lightly for one to two minutes.
- Cup bubbles (straw phonation): This exercise involves blowing bubbles through a straw into a water bottle or cup filled with water. Gather your supplies and look up “straw phonation vocal exercise” online for an instructional video.
Other injury prevention strategies:
• Find an alternative to shouting.
• Maintain daily good hydration – drink 1/2 – 1 oz of water for every pound you weigh. Caffeine, soda and alcohol can be drying to the vocal folds so be sure to balance your consumption of these with water.
• Reduce the amount of talking you do after singing in a rehearsal or concert.
• Make daily vocal rest a habit.
• Reduce your physical tension through sighing and yawning, neck rolls, tongue stretches.
• Avoid excess coughing and throat clearing.
For some, these techniques will not be enough. If your problems persist, having your vocal cords evaluated by a laryngologist or voice-specialized otolaryngologist can help you figure out your next steps.
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Photo credit: Luke Thornton