Voice Skills

by Judy Apps

How can I look after my voice?

As with any other part of your body, you need to look after your voice if it is to perform at its best.

1. Give it a break

Any part of our body gets tired if we thrash it to death. So give your voice a break. When you think that the average school teacher’s vocal cords vibrate a couple of million times a day, you will realise that we come to expect a lot from our voices. If you feel that your throat is dry or tired, or your voice is becoming hoarse, stop talking if you possibly can.

Vary your voice so that you are not using your vocal cords at the same pitch and volume again and again. Have a quiet telephone-free day every now and then.

2. Don’t abuse your voice – well, not often anyway!

Your voice is not indestructible. In everyday communication, try to avoid lots of yelling, screaming or cheering. Try not to shout above significant background noise. Don’t carry out important conversations in noisy places.

To reduce or minimise voice misuse, use non-vocal or visual cues to attract attention, especially with children. Obtain a vocal amplification system if you routinely need to use a ‘loud’ voice, especially in an outdoor setting.

Try not to speak at an unnatural pitch. Adopting an extremely low or high pitch can injure the vocal cords, with subsequent hoarseness and a variety of problems.

3. Rest your voice if you are unwell

When the vocal cords are inflamed or irritated due to infection, your voice is at its most vulnerable. You are more likely to upset the delicate balance of energies used to produce your voice when one part is not working well, and at such times it is easy to injure your vocal cords. If at all possible, give your voice a rest. When you have an infection which affects your voice, a silent day at home could well save a week off work later on.

4. Take a steam inhalation

Your voice, nose and chest respond well to steam. It helps reduce swelling and irritation. The traditional way is to breathe in steam with a towel over your head over a bowl of steaming water, but a hot steaming bath works well too.

5. Avoid clearing your throat too often

Excessive clearing of your throat is in itself a sign that all is not well with your voice, and that in the longer term you need to do some work on your vocal production. It can also be a sign of a medical condition. The act of clearing your throat is like hitting your vocal cords together and can make your voice even more hoarse.

Instead, give your dry throat some moisture, either by swallowing or by taking a little water.

6. Drink water

Drinking plenty of water each day keeps your body healthy, and your voice likes it too. The thin mucus that lubricates your vocal folds needs plenty of moisture. This is why it is best not to overindulge in substances that cause dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeinated coffee, tea and cola.

7. Warm your voice up

It’s well worth warming up your voice before extensive use, just as a sportsman would warm up any other part of the body before working it hard.

8. Quit smoking

Smoking is clearly not a good idea either. Smoke that is breathed in causes irritation and swelling of the vocal cords. This eventually permanently changes voice quality and flexibility.

9. Avoid noxious atmospheres

Where possible, avoid dry dusty conditions, smoke-filled rooms, chemical irritants and traffic fumes. Get a humidifier for your workplace.

10. Go the to doctor

If your voice is not normal for more than a week or so, see your doctor.

Having said all the above, your voice is a pretty robust instrument, and enjoys a good work out, so you don’t need to treat it with kid gloves. Enjoy your voice and use it well.

People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr