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World Voice Day

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Laura Zabriskie

April 16, 2021
How often do you think about your voice? For many people, the answer is “rarely,” but the voice is a critical part of communication and daily functioning. World Voice Day, held every year on April 16, is an opportunity to raise awareness about vocal health and remind people about how critical the voice is to their everyday lives. To celebrate this year, Dan Sherwood, MS/CCC-SP, HSE, Clinical Vocologist at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center at GBMC, spoke with Mary Beth Marsden to educate viewers about how to care for their voice.

“Our voice is almost like a second face – it’s part of our very identity,” he said, “and once we lose it, we can’t get another one.” Dan knows this on a personal level and uses that to connect with his patients. For 13 years, he worked on broadcast radio, and overused his voice to the point that scar tissue formed on his vocal cords. “I stumbled into this profession the hard way,” he expressed, “I found it because I was a patient.”

Most of the patients Dan sees use their voice to make a living – singers, actors, teachers, lawyers, etc. – but anyone, regardless of profession, can develop vocal issues. “One of the most common problems people have is using their voice too much, too loudly, and for too long,” he explained. When this happens, the vocal cords swell and the surrounding muscles become strained, potentially causing permanent damage.

Dan provided several tips for maintaining healthy vocal cords:
  • Hydrate regularly
  • Warm up the voice before heavy use
  • Pace yourself
  • Do not slouch
  • Stay active
  • Breathe properly
He emphasized that general self-awareness and understanding body signals is one of the best ways to prevent damage or to tell if something is wrong. “Listen to your body,” he said. “It will tell you when you need to rest.”

If someone is experiencing issues like sudden changes in the voice, prolonged hoarseness, or pain in the throat, Dan suggested starting by talking with an ENT or primary care provider. If appropriate, they can then refer to a specialized practice like the Voice Center.

GBMC takes a multidisciplinary approach to vocal health, with laryngologists, speech language pathologists, and clinical vocologists working together to develop a unique treatment plan for each patient. Diagnosis is done through specialized cameras that go down the throat and treatments can range from surgery to medication to therapy.

Throughout the interactive conversation, Dan answered viewer questions and discussed topics such as how the voice changes with age, how allergies affect the voice, and ways to effectively speak through a mask.
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