How To Take Care Of Your Voice

Updated on: by Amy Kennedy

taking care of your voice

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If you do phone work from home, it’s very important to take care of your voice so you can communicate clearly with the people you talk to.  This post will provide some  information on the causes of voice problems, how you can tell when your voice isn’t healthy, and it will also provide some tips to prevent voice problems.

Causes of Voice Problems

There are several different causes of voice problems.  These include upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis or the common cold,  inflammation from acid reflux, misusing your vocal cords (by screaming or talking to loudly), vocal nodules or growths on the larynx, cancer of the larynx, neuromuscular diseases that affect the throat, such as spasmodic dysphonia or vocal cord paralysis, and psychogenic conditions that occur as a result of psychological trauma.  While some of these may sound scary, many of these conditions can be corrected if they’re caught early.

How to Tell When Your Voice Isn’t Healthy

Signs that your voice may  not be healthy include a voice that sounds hoarse or raspy, not being able to hit high notes that you could once hit when singing (if you’re a singer), a voice that suddenly sounds deeper,  a throat often feels raw, achy or strained, it takes more effort for you to talk,  and you find you’re constantly clearing your throat.  If you notice any of these symptoms, you  should consult an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist). They will be able to determine the cause of your voice problem and recommend treatment.  If you’re interested in improving the use of your voice and avoiding vocal abuse, you should consult a speech-language pathologist.

How to Prevent Voice Problems

There are several ways to prevent voice problems.

They include:

  • Limit the amount of alcohol or caffeine that you drink – These two substances act as diuretics, causing the body to lose too much water, which can dry out the vocal cords.  In addition, alcohol irritates the mucous membranes lining the throat.
  • Drink plenty of water – The recommended amount is 6 to 8 glasses per day.  I personally keep water at my desk at all times, and I find it helps my voice stay clear so people can understand me when I talk on the phone.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid second hand smoke – Cancer of the vocal folds is more prevalent in people who smoke.
  • Practice proper breathing techniques when singing or talking – Take deep breaths from your diaphragm, which is the muscle located right beneath your lungs – you’ll be able to tell you’re breathing from your diaphragm because your abdomen will rise.
  • Avoid eating spicy food – Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus, which can cause irritation.
  • Use a humidifier – This is especially important during winter, or if you live in a dry climate.  Keep it set at 30% humidity.
  • Try not to overuse your voice – Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse.
  • Wash your hands often – Washing your hands often helps prevent colds or flu, which can affect your voice.
  • Eat a healthy diet  – This is something everyone should be doing anyway, but it’s especially  important for people who use their voice a lot to get plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables in their diet, because these foods contain vitamins A, E, and C, which keep the mucous membranes that line the throat healthy.
  • Don’t cradle the phone when talking – Doing this for long periods of time can cause tension in your neck.  If you’re on the phone for long periods of time,  you should be using a headset.
  • Exercise regularly – This is something else we should all be doing, but it’s especially important for people w ho use their voice because exercise helps improve muscle tone and promote good posture and breathing, which are both necessary when speaking.
  • Get enough rest -Tiredness or fatigue has a negative affect on your voice.
  • Avoid talking in noisy places – When you have to talk very loudly, it puts a strain on your voice.
  • Don’t use mouthwash that contains alcohol or irritating chemicals – If you need to use a mouthwash that contains alcohol, use it for rinsing only.  If you need to gargle, use a warm salt water solution.
  • Don’t use mouthwash to treat persistent bad breath – If your bad breath is persistent, it may be because of an infection in the nose, sinuses, tonsils, gums or lungs, or because of gastric reflux.  See a doctor for treatment.
  • Consider using a microphone – If you’re in a large room and you know you won’t be able to make yourself heard, use a microphone  hooked up to an amplifier-speaker system.
  • Consider voice therapy – If you’re still having voice problems, consult a speech language pathologist about voice therapy – they will be able to provide information and training on proper voice techniques.

How Voice Problems are Treated

If you develop a voice problem, there re three different ways to treat it.   Voice problems can be treated with medical therapy, voice therapy, and surgery.

  • Medical therapy – Medical therapy involves determining the cause of the voice problem and then treating it with the appropriate medical treatment.  For example,  for voice problems caused by acid reflux, a doctor would most likely prescribe anti-reflux medicines. For voice problems caused by hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) a doctor would monitor thyroid levels closely and treat with the proper medication, such as Levothyroxine.  People with voice problems caused by spasmodic dysphonia (muscle spasms) can be treated with botulinum toxin A, which is injected into the voice box.
  • Voice therapy – Voice therapy is most often used to treat vocal misuse and abuse, and is often combined with other treatments.  For example, if someone has developed a lesion as a result of voice misuse or abuse, voice therapy can help patients get rid of harmful voice habits and may help the lesions get smaller or go away completely .   If a patient has a scar on their vocal fold, voice therapy won’t reduce the size of the scar, but will prevent it from getting any worse.
  • Surgery – There are a few different ways that surgery can be used to treat voice problems.  Phonomicrosurgery involves using a microscope to look at a lesion.  This method is used for vocal fold lesions or abnormalities that  don’t allow the vocal folds to vibrate.  Laryngeal framework surgery involves moving the framework of the voice box to improve vocal fold closure, which is important for vocal fold vibration when speaking or singing. And finally, injection augmentation involves surgically injecting fat or other substances into the vocal folds to add bulk, which allows the vocal folds to close easier.

I hope this post has provided some valuable information on the causes, prevention and treatment of voice problems, as well as how you can tell when you have a voice problem.  Our voices are very important, especially if you talk a lot for work, so it’s important to take care of them.

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