Vocal Hygiene - Simple Ways to Save Your Voice

By Valerie Connor, MA CCC-SLP

Have you ever lost your voice after cheering a little too loudly at a baseball game? Did you ever wake up with a sore throat and wonder why? Vocal health is something that most people take for granted until they have a problem.  Just as we eat a well-balanced diet and exercise to stay healthy, maintaining proper vocal fitness is essential to overall well-being.

When used properly, vocal chords (technically called vocal “folds”) are muscles that vibrate together in a rhythmic pattern to produce sound. If an injury occurs to the vocal folds, they are not able to vibrate normally, which results in hoarseness, reduced volume, or complete loss of voice.

Maintaining vocal fitness is something that everyone can do! It only takes one or two minutes to drink an extra glass of water or turn on a humidifier. Prolonged irritation of the vocal folds can result in permanent damage. Although this is rare, if you experience vocal hoarseness or other abnormalities that last longer than two weeks, it is best to consult your primary physician.

What promotes a healthy voice? Here are some quick and easy tips that everyone can easily do:

  • Maintain proper hydration:
    • Drink water to keep the vocal chords moist and limit substances that cause dehydration, such as caffeine.  It is important to note that drinking small amounts of water throughout the day is more effective than drinking large quantities all at once.
    • Certain medications, such as antihistamines, can also result in dehydration, so drink extra water if you take any of these medications on a regular basis.
    • Use a humidifier at night if you run the heater or air conditioning, or if you live in a dry climate.
    • Avoid smoky environments; do not smoke.
  • Use your voice responsibly:
    • Do not whisper. When you whisper, you force your vocal chords to nearly close, which can cause muscle strain.
    • If you must project, use an amplification system.
    • Avoid clearing your throat. Constant throat clearing can cause irritation or inflammation of the vocal chords. The need to clear your throat is usually a symptom of something, so it might be wise to consult your doctor.
    • Do not shout or cough roughly, if possible.  Shouting and rough coughing is the same as slamming your vocal chords together.  This can result in irritation.

If you are interested in more information about vocal fitness, here are a few wonderful resources:

Valerie Connor, MA CCC-SLP

Valerie Connor is an adjunct professor at Kaplan University where she teaches Medical Law and Ethics. She teaches similar courses at Rasmussen College and St. Joseph’s College of Maine. She has a master’s degree in speech pathology from the University of Northern Iowa and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Health Education. Valerie has worked as a speech therapist in schools and medical settings, as well as private practice. She lives outside of Davenport, IA with her husband and two children.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

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