Care of Your Speaking Voice

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You and your larynx... what you need to know

Vocal cordsYour voice reflects many different aspects of your personality. It's what makes you unique. Lifestyle choices and differences in daily vocal use or misuse can affect the health and stability of your vocal cords. We do know that the effects of smoking and drinking alcohol can have detrimental effects on the voice and may lead to cancer of the larynx. Keeping a healthy voice throughout your lifetime.
1. Don't smoke! Don't smoke! Don't smoke! Also, stay away from smoke-filled environments.
2. Hydration matters. Drink at least 8, 8-ounce glasses of water per day (64 ounces); more if you drink caffeine, alcohol, or if you're exercising. Hydration appears to affect voice in at least two ways. First, well-hydrated vocal cords vibrate with less "push" from the lungs. Second, well-hydrated cords resist injury from voice use more than dry cords, and recover better from existing injury than dry vocal cords. Increased systemic hydration also has the benefit of thinning thick secretions (Titze, 1988; Verdolini-Marston, Druker, & Titze, 1990; Verdolini, Titze, & Fennell, 1994; Verdolini et al., 2002; Titze, 1981; Verdolini-Marston, Sandage, and Titze, 1994).
3. Eliminate excessive throat clearing. Chronic throat clearing can result in irritation and swelling of the vocal cords. Try sipping water, humming, or using a "baby" throat clear.
Limit alcohol intake.
4. Alcohol irritates laryngeal epithelium and mucosa, and has been linked to laryngeal cancer risk.
5. Avoid vocally abusive behaviors.
 
  • Decrease overall volume; if you're talking one-on-one in a small room, talk quietly!
  • No shouting/yelling; find another way to let people know that it's dinner time or that they have a phone call!
  • Watch excessive phone talking; you may not realize how loud you're talking while on the phone. Ask your listener!
  • Don't whisper! It may actually make your voice worse!
  • Don't talk in the presence of a lot of background noise! Talk to someone only when they are an arm's length away.
  • Don't try to talk or sing when you have a bad cold or laryngitis.
6. Avoid chronic use of mouthwash. Most mouthwashes have a high alcohol content, which can be irritating to the larynx. If you wish, use mouthwash to rinse your mouth... if you must gargle, switch to a mouthwash without alcohol or use warm salt water.
7. Posture matters. Good posture allows better airflow and reduces tension and strain. Poor posture can be improved with an exercise program designed to strengthen and realign the body for optimal support.
8.

Exercise regularly to keep your body, mind, and spirit healthy. Try yoga for the extra benefit of stretch, relaxation, and strengthening, as well as good posture.

9. Get sufficient sleep daily .Early to bed, early to rise makes your voice healthy and wise.
10. Always warm up your voice before or cool down after prolonged speaking or singing. Try quiet lip or tongue trills up and down your range, or softly and quietly hum five-note descending scales in the middle of your range.
   

Johns Hopkins Voice Center | Greater Baltimore Medical Center
6569 North Charles Street, Physicians Pavilion West, Suite 402, Baltimore, MD 21204
443-849-2087 | Barbara Messing | Webmaster

Greater Baltimore Medical Center | 6701 North Charles Street | Baltimore, MD 21204 | (443) 849-2000 | TTY (800) 735-2258
© 2014  GBMC. This website is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with a professional healthcare provider.