What springs to mind when you think of “Vocal Hygiene?” Do you have images of washing your mouth with antiseptic soap or scrubbing with a toilet brush to remove germs? ‘Hygiene’ refers to conditions or practices which are conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease. Yes there really are things we can do to maintain the health and function of our voice and prevent us from developing a voice disorder.
Here’s a list of the top 5 ways to ensure that you are looking after your voice:
Keep hydrated – Your vocal folds are covered in a mucous membrane which needs to be kept moist. Dry vocal folds can lead to a hoarse or strained voice and are at greater risk of damage. Water is the most effective means of hydration. Drink lots. Watch out for fluids which contain caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic which can lead to dehydration. If you love your caffeinated drinks just remember to pair them with a tall glass of water.
Avoid excessive throat clearing – Continually clearing your throat can lead to wear and tear on your vocal folds. A Speech Pathologist will be able to show you strategies and techniques to clear your throat without causing damage to your voice. A visit to your doctor is recommended to assess the cause of vocal irritations.
Treat reflux – If you suffer from reflux see your doctor. Reflux and heartburn occurs when acid from the stomach moves up the oesophagus. This can lead to acid on the vocal folds. Never a good scenario for a healthy voice.
Stop yelling – Yelling, screaming, talking while exercising or straining and excessively loud talking all force your vocal folds together. These harsh sounds can cause damage to the vocal folds. Repetitive impact injury leads to swelling resulting in a hoarse voice. Persistent abuse of the vocal folds can result in more significant damage such as nodules and polyps.
Manage your environment – Airborne irritants such as smoke or dust will dry out your vocal folds and leave them susceptible to damage. Watch out for the drying effects of some medications and ALWAYS avoid smoking and recreational drug use.
When you get sick it is common to lose your voice for a period of time. It is important to rest your voice when possible and never force it. If your hoarse voice persists for more than 2 weeks or you are experiencing chronic pain then you must consult your G.P.
Newcastle Speech Pathology is able to assess your vocal use and provide you with a personalised plan for managing your voice.
Written by Alison Speech Pathologist Newcastle Speech Pathology