We often take our voice for granted and first realize its importance when we encounter difficulties. As the months get cooler and winter season approaches, be aware of some of the situations that impact your speaking voice and learn ways to address them.
In the winter, we start closing windows and turning up the heat; the air in our homes and offices becomes extremely dry and filled with irritants, such as dust. This can have detrimental effects on our voice.
Solution: Make sure to drink plenty of water and use a humidifier if necessary. This will keep your vocal cords moist and minimize any vocal issues.
Colds and respiratory infections may be accompanied by hoarseness or loss of voice. In response, sometimes we speak with greater effort and strain. Consequently, our vocal cords become abused and we are left with bigger problems after the infection clears.
Solution: Give your voice a rest; don’t push past the hoarseness. Speak in a gentle and breathy voice that is not strained. Use a microphone if you are speaking to large groups. If these strategies are not possible, avoid speaking situations until you feel better.
Medications, such as decongestants and antihistamines, may dry your mucous membranes and your vocal cords.
Solution: Make sure to make up for the drying effect by hydrating with water.
Excessive throat clearing is abusive. There may be several reasons for this behavior: allergies, post-nasal drip, lactose intolerance, or reflux, to name a few.
Solution: Check with your physician and monitor your dietary habits.
Alcohol and caffeine have dehydrating effects. To add insult to injury, when you try to talk over noise at a party, networking event, sporting event, concert, classroom, or any place that requires excessive talking with adverse conditions, you will feel the deleterious effects when you get home. You may experience physiological changes, such as vocal cord swelling or vocal nodules.
Solution: Drinking water will balance your system and help compensate for the dehydration. Rather than yelling, move closer to the listener. You can minimize the negative consequences with proper vocal techniques. Learn how to monitor these behaviors and use proper breath support. Check with your physician if the problems persist and meet with a speech and language pathologist.
If you talk a lot during the day, try to give yourself short “vocal naps” when you do not answer the phone or talk. Use that time to answer emails at work or perform quiet tasks at home. Your voice will thank you if you have a meeting or social event later that day.
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 you have concerns, visit your doctor and see a speech and language pathologist to help you with proper vocal hygiene and voice production. Take good care of your voice!