Vocal Hygiene

Vocal Abuse

Voice misuse/vocal abuse is vocal behaviours leading to traumatic tissue changes of the vocal folds. Our voice is generated from the vibrations of the vocal folds. The vibrations which move these folds is powered by breath support. Vocal trauma can be caused by life stresses, reflux disease, psychosocial issues (i.e. anxiety, depression), environmental factors (i.e. smoking or airborne irritants), speaking in a hoarse, rough or strained voice or excessively high pitch voice (i.e. screaming). Many singers, or individuals who work in fields that require the frequent use of their voice (i.e. teachers), may experience vocal trauma. Continuing these vocal habits can lead to physical changes of the vocal folds. This can include, the development of vocal fold nodules or polyps, contact ulcers, thickening of the vocal folds, tension and tightness.

Implementing Vocal Hygiene Strategies

There are many strategies you can use to protect your voice and reduce the tension or strain put onto your voice. The following strategies should be used on a regular basis. See below for ways on how to do so:
  • Hydration – be sure to drink plenty of water and fluids throughout the day. Room temperature water is best. This provides lubrication and protection to the vocal folds. Many soft drinks and hot beverages, such as coffee and teas, have caffeine in them. This speeds up the dehydration process. Up to 2 litres of water a day is recommended. There are many helpful hydration tracker Apps which you can download onto your mobile phone.
  • Breathing – our breath powers our voice. It is important to make sure you have enough air support for everything you need to say. Try not to speak until the end of your breath. Renew your breath by pausing throughout speaking if necessary.
  • Posture – a slouched posture may lead to poor breath support, which can result in a weak, ineffective, hoarse voice. If you are standing or sitting, have your shoulders back and down, your neck relaxed, your face muscles relaxed, and your hands gently falling/resting by your side.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing (i.e. belly breathing) – use this method of breathing both before and after a conversation to maximise breath support. To do this, place yourself in a relaxed posture, as stated above, and breathe in through your nose. Place your hands on your belly as you breathe in and feel the air fill deep down into your lungs. Breathe out through your mouth using pursed lips, like you are blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Use your hands on your belly to feel the air from your lungs empty out. Repeat for 5 breaths.
  • Nose breathing – avoid breathing in through your mouth, especially in cold weather. Breathing through your nose cleans, warms and moistens the air before it reaches your vocal folds and lungs.
  • Avoid singing or speaking in a pitch/at a volume which puts strain on your voice. Avoid yelling and screaming. Avoid talking loudly in noisy environments.
  • Do not whisper – whispering has a drying effect on the vocal folds and can cause strain.
  • Rest and staying healthy – get enough rest and maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
  • Do not smoke and avoid excessive alcohol consumption – these leads to drying of the vocal folds and exposure to harmful substances.
  • Seek support from medical professionals, such as a Psychologist, on ways to manage psychosocial issues such as anxiety which may lead to vocal trauma.
  • Seek support from a Speech Pathologist on ways to further implement strategies into day-to-day routines to maintain health vocal habits.
If you have any further questions, or would like the help from one of our therapists, you can contact us on 02 9328 3444 or at info@communicatespeech.com.au.

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