Expert tips to help you take care of your voice
“Your voice can also change due to frequent throat clearing, coughing or from not drinking enough water,” explains Mark Harlor, CCC-SLP, speech language pathologist at Geisinger Port Matilda.
Here are some ways you can keep your voice healthy:
Drink and eat smart
Drink water to keep your body and voice box hydrated and lubricated. When you’re properly hydrated, your vocal cords will work more efficiently, which will improve the quality of your voice.
“Avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine and carbonated drinks,” says Harlor. “These can result in reflux, which irritates the fine tissue in your throat and around your vocal box.”
Other drinks and foods to avoid for a healthy voice include high amounts of:
- Fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Citrus foods and drinks
- Tomato-based foods
When eaten too often, these foods and drinks can worsen acid reflux in some people and result in a voice disorder.
Put your voice to good use — and protect it
Certain common, daily activities could strain your vocal box. To protect yours, actively try not to overuse your voice.
“If you feel your voice box becoming strained or tired, take a ‘mini voice break’ by not talking for 5 to 10 minutes,” advises Harlor. “This will allow your vocal cords to recover so your voice doesn’t sound hoarse or raspy.”
Clearing your throat is one of the most common forms of irritation to your vocal folds, particularly in people who have a hoarse voice. “Instead of clearing your throat, consider swallowing your own saliva or sipping on a small amount of water,” says Harlor.
And always avoid straining your voice through excessive loud shouting or screaming. At the first sign of throat discomfort, pain or hoarseness, it's important to give your voice a rest.
Best practices for a strong voice
If you sing, always warm up with simple activities such as humming, chanting or softly making the sound of a siren using the letter M. “You should also perform the same exercises after singing to cool your voice down,” says Harlor.
Remember to also limit your singing commitments because frequent or daily singing reduces your vocal flexibility and strains your voice box. And if you’re speaking or singing to a crowd, use technology, not your vocal cords, to raise the volume
“Using a microphone is a great way to protect your voice if your work requires you to speak over long distances or over a lot of background noise,” says Harlor.
Getting the proper amount of sleep and not smoking also help protect your voice.
Warning signs and reasons to seek a specialist
Here are some warning signs that indicate it’s time to see a specialist:
- Hoarseness lasting for more than 2-3 weeks
- Needing to strain to produce your voice
- Difficulty making your voice louder
- Pain in your voice box during or after speaking or singing
- Difficulty singing higher notes
“If you think you might have a voice box condition, talk to your family doctor,” says Harlor. Your doctor can refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist who will thoroughly assess your voice box structure and movement. And, depending on your evaluation, they may refer you to speech language pathologist specializing in voice evaluation and therapy.
“We’ll work with you to strengthen and protect your voice in a way that works best for you,” says Harlor.