A staggering 17.9 million adults in the U.S. have reported problems with using their voice, according to the National Institutes of Health.
If you use your voice frequently, you may have vocal problems. Do you suffer from a strained voice and wonder, “how can I prevent my voice from feeling sore?”
Vocal hygiene is the key you’ve been searching for. Tips on how to take care of your voice will help you have the voice you need, when you need it most.
This post includes practical advice from experts to guide you on your way to great vocal health — and help you learn about what you can avoid. If you think you need voice therapy for vocal hygiene, contact us for a no-pressure, free introductory phone call.
What is vocal hygiene?
Vocal hygiene consists of the habits you perform in order to maintain a healthy, strong, and powerful voice.
The word “hygiene” may conjure up images of hand-washing in your mind… no, we’re not talking about the same type of hygiene! Voice hygiene involves the practices you do, day in and day out, in order to ensure your voice performs at its best.
Just like warming up and stretching at the gym before you workout, your voice needs the right type of “stretches” in order to perform and function easily.
Why is vocal hygiene important?
It may be cliché, but everyone needs a voice! No matter your passion or profession, your voice is likely your greatest asset and most important tool.
Vocal hygiene is critical for not just singers, actors, or performers…everyone from teachers, salespeople, doctors, bankers, and stay-at-home moms all need their voice to fulfill daily tasks.
In order to keep your voice functioning properly, there are a number of things you can do to promote vocal hygiene. There’s also many habits, scenarios, and substances you can avoid in order to have the greatest vocal hygiene.
Good vocal hygiene is important because without taking care of your voice, you may be left without it. Vocal fatigue and soreness can have lasting, detrimental effects on your voice box, making it difficult for you to speak properly.
How can I improve my voice hygiene?
You may be wondering, “How can I take care of my voice?” Here are a few tips on how to maintain high-quality vocal hygiene:
- Hydration is key: drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day in order to allow vocal folds to move properly, and flush out any mucous
- Perform vocal warm-ups before exerting your voice: try sounding out different vowels, letters, short words, sounds, and moving your jaw slowly in order to warm up your voice
- Use optimal posture when sitting or standing, and avoid slouching
- Eliminating background noise or lowering music in the background — doing this ensures you aren’t straining your voice by overcompensating and using it loudly
- Using a humidifier if you live in a colder climate with dry air during the winter
- Trying chewing gum or lozenges to help lubricate your throat if you find it is dry
- Gargling with water in order to loosen any mucus in your throat
What is bad for vocal hygiene?
Chemicals and irritants can cause serious damage to your lungs and vocal cords! In order to have great vocal hygiene, avoid the following:
- Cigarettes and secondhand smoke
- Car exhaust or other strong chemical fumes
- Any environmental allergens that affect your breathing
- Yelling or screaming, if you’re at a concert, sporting event, or similar activity
- Whispering for an extended period of time
- Overusing your voice, especially if you’re feeling sick or tired
- Too much soda, coffee, or alcohol — the caffeine can dehydrate you, and these drinks act as diuretics which are not optimal for voice health because they make the vocal folds and dry. Alcohol especially irritates the mucous membranes in your throat, according to NIH
- Certain foods, including spicy and fried foods, can lead to acid reflux or heartburn that will make it difficult for your voice to perform properly
- Speaking too quickly or forcing your voice to strain when you tool many words out of your mouth — ensure you can complete full sentences in one breath
There are several types of medications that can affect the voice because they have a drying effect on your body, including the following:
- Antihistamines (allergy medicine)
- Anticholingergics (asthma medicine)
- Anabolic and inhaled steroids
- Muscle relaxants
- Antihypertensives and diuretics (blood pressure medicine)
- Decongestants, including over-the-counter and prescription cold medicine
Check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your health. Consider consulting with an ENT or laryngologist if you have specific questions regarding medication — they may be able to suggest alternative prescriptions or remedies.
How do you clean your vocal cords? How we promote vocal hygiene speech pathology at Great Speech
When we work with clients and develop treatment plans involving voice therapy for vocal hygiene, there are a number of techniques and “tried and true” strategies.
Your expert therapist will work with you to find the right combination of tools in order to clean your vocal cords. Here are just a few:
- Diaphragmatic breathing: taking deep belly breaths before speaking, and ensuring you breathe often when speaking. Your speech therapist may help you become aware that your breathing pattern is not supporting good vocal hygiene — don’t worry, we’re here to help!
- Vocal warm-ups: actors and singers are known to warm up their vocal cords daily to promote great vocal health. Whether it’s “mmmmmm”, “yo yo yo”, “weeeeeeeee”, or other sounds, your speech-language pathologist is trained to help you prepare your voice for the long haul.
- Examining the way you use your nose when breathing, ensuring that your vocal cords are not frequently dried out from mouth breathing
Over time, a trained speech-language pathologist will be your greatest asset to optimal vocal health. They’ll be the one to identify changes in voice quality, stamina, tone, pitch, and breathing.
Our team will create a customized treatment plan — with an unwavering commitment to achieving your vocal performance goals.
Experience the Great Speech difference by booking your free introductory call. It takes just a few minutes and may make a world of difference for you to find the speech-language pathologist you’ve needed for voice therapy.
Please note this content is strictly for informational purposes only, not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please speak with your medical doctor regarding any medical concerns.