Larynx and voice care/Vocal hygiene Christine Efthymiou ENT surgeon
Careers that depend on a person’s use of their voice, may include: a teacher, attorney, corporate trainer or entertainer.
For a professional voice user, it is of the utmost importance to take good care of the voice. The following are some helpful hints to help maintain good vocal hygiene:
It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to maintain good water intake. 6 to 8 eight glasses of water a day, are recommended to maintain adequate hydration. Good water intake helps keep the lubricating mucus on the vocal cords thin, creating the ideal environment for the vocal cords to work.
2. Thick Mucus
Increasing water intake, as outlined above, will frequently help take care of problems with thick mucous. Despite these measures, some people continue to have the sensation of thick mucous in their throat or on their vocal cords. In many instances, this is due to backflow of stomach acid into the throat - so called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
3. Throat Clearing
This is a common problem with many professional voice users. It is often seen in people with excessive mucous or GERD (reflux disease). Throat clearing is extremely traumatic to the vocal cords, leading to excessive wear and tear. The following strategies are helpful to avoid this: swallowing, a sip of water, or silent clearing of the throat without allowing the vocal cords to touch.
4. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Although the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus and throat commonly leads to heartburn, many patients never experience this symptom. Treatment of this condition involves changes in diet and lifestyle, as well as medications to reduce the acid production from the stomach.
5. Vocal Abuse/Overuse
It has been said, "everything in moderation". Avoiding lengthy conversations on the phone and resting the voice for ten minutes every 2-3 hours will go a long way towards easing the strain on the voice.
Talking at a low to moderate volume; this will sometimes mean using different strategies when there is excessive background noise (cars, parties, airplanes, restaurants).
Shouting and screaming should be avoided. There are much better ways to get people's attention, and these methods will not traumatize the vocal cords as screaming will. Examples would include using a whistle or the clapping of hands.
Needless to say, smoking is one of the worst things for the voice. Irritation to the vocal cords from cigarette smoke can lead to chronic laryngitis, vocal cord polyps, or cancer of the larynx.
6. Drugs that Affect the Voice
Antihistamines/Decongestants: These drugs are commonly found in cold preparations and allergy medications. They will result in a drying effect on the vocal cords which is detrimental. Other medications that cause the drying of the vocal cords are all diuretics and local anesthetics.
7. Work Environment
Smoke filled and dusty environments should be avoided. Traveling to dry environments may also cause voice problems. It is best to keep a humidifier on at night, and to maintain good water intake. Airplanes are also notoriously dry environments.