While communication is multi-faceted, the largest way that the hearing community communicates is through our voices. Think about how much you talk every day. You probably say good morning to a few co-workers, present in meetings, talk about your day with your loved ones, order food, etc. We spend a lot of time using our vocal cords, but very little time caring for them. Why do some politicians lose their voices on the campaign trail? Do you ever wonder how famous singers can put on shows night after night? They must know how to take good care of their voices! And those who don’t, they may have limitations in their career! Here are some tips for keeping your vocal cords in top shape:.
- Drink lots of water. You should be drinking 6-8 glasses per day anyway for good overall health, but staying hydrated is also helpful for your vocal cords.
- Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate your vocal cords. Compensate by drinking plenty of water.
- Invest in a good humidifier. Winter months can dry you out from head to toe. A humidifier will keep your vocal cords hydrated and (as an added bonus) makes winter colds a little more bearable. If you are traveling and at a hotel, steam up the bathroom for added humidification. Air travel dehydrates you and your vocal cords!
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies, and take supplements if you aren’t getting enough vitamins.
- Avoid getting sick. While this is easier said than done, regularly washing your hands and being aware of your environment can help you stay healthy during flu season. That being said…
- Rest your voice if you do get sick. Don’t strain your vocal cords or try to talk when you’ve “lost” it. You may damage your vocal cords. Speak in a soft breathy voice if you need to talk. If you do take antihistamines, remember that they will also dry out your vocal cords, so make sure to re-hydrate with plenty of water.
- Try to keep your voice at a reasonable level. Talking loudly, cheering at sporting events, speaking over noise in a bar or party, or even loud whispering can cause undue strain to your voice.
- Before speaking engagements, avoid milk products (they coat your throat), nuts and popcorn (you can cough on them and become hoarse), and carbonated beverages (you certainly don't want to belch while presenting!)
- Avoid excessive throat clearly. You may feel you need to clear the phlegm, but throat clearing can further injure your vocal cords. Try to gently clear your throat, if necessary.
- If you have reflux (GERD), there can be detrimental effects on your vocal cords. Follow your doctor's recommendations to avoid acid from spilling over onto your vocal cords when you sleep. Do not eat right before bedtime, avoid spicy foods, and elevate the head of your bed.
- Don’t smoke! This is a good practice in general. Smoking irritates your vocal folds, causes coughing, voice changes, and in a worst-case scenario, can cause laryngeal or lung cancer.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid abusing your voice when at all possible. Take an inventory of your behaviors and find ways to minimize any of your daily abuses. Monitor what you ingest; beverages, foods, and medication. Drink your problems away with plenty of water!
If your job requires you to speak all day, take vocal naps or breaks where you can rest your voice. If you have longstanding hoarseness or vocal difficulty, see an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor. You may want to consider voice therapy in conjunction with the tips above. A Speech and Language Pathologist can teach you the best way to care for your voice effectively and to use it in a way that won’t cause damage. Speech and Language Pathologists can also work with you on general voice improvement, accent modification, better public speaking methods, executive coaching, and more. If you’d like to learn how to take better care of your voice, give us a call at 410-356-5666 or visit us online.