What on earth is vocal hygiene?

16 Apr, 2015 Categories: Blog

[infobox title=’Editor’s Note’]Every year on April 16, Otolaryngologist and voice health professionals worldwide come together to recognize World Voice Day (WVD). World Voice Day encourages men and women, young and old, to assess their vocal health and take action to improve or maintain good voice habits.[/infobox]

We use our voice extensively every day for a whole range of purposes. However, some people use their voice as a critical part of the job, they are professional voice users. Think about fitness instructors, actors, singers, preachers, teachers and so on – they can’t successfully do their job without their voice.

Taking care of our voice isn’t something we really think about or are particularly aware of until we lose our voice or our voice quality changes. For all of us, but particularly for those of us who have to use our voice to do our job, thinking about vocal hygiene and taking care of our voice can really be very important.

5 Steps for Good Vocal Hygiene

  1. Hydration : If you are dehydrated your voice can be negatively affected, it can become hoarse, fatigue easily and reduced in volume. External dehydration is particularly common in Dubai from A/C, but can also be related to mouth breathing, smoking and some medications. Inhaling steam can help to rehydrate the vocal cords. Internal dehydration is caused by not replacing lost fluids or only drinking diuretics, e.g. coffee. Management: The best way to keep hydrated is by drinking plenty of water across the day.
  2. Managing your mucous : Nice hey! Another side effect of being dehydrated, or from having a cold, is thick, sticky mucous! This type of mucous tends to stick to the vocal cords and irritate them, causing us to cough to try to clear it. This constant throat clearing can have a negative effect on your vocal cords, again making your voice hoarse or husky, quieter and tires easily. Management: If you feel that this affects you, you can help to keep mucus thin and flowing by keeping hydrated with water. If it persists, maybe speak to your doctor about a mucous thinning medication and exploring possible reflux as this can be a symptom.
  3. Stop throat clearing : Excessive or frequent throat clearing can be very damaging to the vocal cords and cause unnecessary wear and tear on them. Throat clearing can cause irritation and swelling of the vocal cords, which results in greater mucous production to try to protect the cords which you then try to clear from your throat. It can become a vicious cycle which can have longstanding effects on your voice. Management: initially it is recommended that you try to suppress the clearing cough habit to break that cycle. You can replace the need to cough by taking a sip of water or swallowing hard. Some people find silently clearing their throat with a ‘huh’ sound can help (the sound you may make if you were lifting a heavy weight).
  4. Irritating or overworking your voice : The old adage “everything in moderation” is totally relevant to how we should be treating our voice. If you take a telephone call for an hour or give a presentation or lecture for 2 hours, give your voice a break afterwards. Make sure you keep hydrated – carry water with you, and try have some quiet time before you push your voice again.
  5. Reflux: The presence of reflux can have a significant medical impact on the vocal cords from the acid contact. It is very important that both laryngopharyngeal and gastroesophageal refluxes are managed as the long term consequences can be significant.