Our voice is essential. It is a means of communication and is a distinct part of our identity. It is a way to convey tone, ideas, emotions and our personality. It is also a means for loved ones, and even our electronic devices, to recognise us. Some of us use it frequently for work. A person’s voice alters with age, health and environmental changes, so we should do our best to ensure good vocal health.
What is a voice disorder?
A voice disorder is present when the vocal quality, pitch or volume is abnormal or unacceptable to the speaker, impacting the ability to communicate effectively.
Voice disorders may occur because of many reasons, for example:
• presence of growths
• inflammation (swelling)
• nerve issues
• hormonal changes
• vocal misuse
Who are at risk of voice disorders?
People who use their voice often, especially those in jobs which require talking loudly, speaking in a noisy environment and using the voice for long periods of time. Some examples include:
• Sales persons
Possible signs of a voice disorder
• Rough, breathy and strained voice
• Abnormal pitch and/or volume
• Feeling tired after speaking for long periods
• Feeling a lump in the throat when speaking
• Having tension or pain in the throat when speaking
• Having difficulties projecting voice
• Having no voice
What can you do to care for your voice?
1. Stay sufficiently hydrated
• Drink at least 8 cups or 2 litres of water a day
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine and products with menthol or eucalyptus as these have a dehydrating effect and can dry out the vocal cords
• Eat food with a lot of water content (E.g. Cucumbers, grapes)
• Inhale or breathe in warm steam when the throat feels dry
• Place a humidifier in your room
2. Use your voice appropriately
• Avoid yelling - walk to the person you would like to speak to, use a microphone or lower the background noise level
• Avoid whispering - use a quiet or soft voice instead
• Avoid clearing your throat - if needed, do it gently or replace with swallowing your saliva and taking sips of water
• Rest your voice - do not sing or talk for some duration, especially after using it continuously for more than an hour
What else can you do to care for your voice?
• Do not smoke
• Rest sufficiently, exercise and eat at regular timings
• Do voice warm-ups before singing and know your vocal limits
• Listen to your voice - stop singing or talking before you get overly tired
• Ensure good posture when speaking to a large audience or in a noisy environment
• Ladies should not overstrain their voice before and during their menstrual period as lowered estrogen levels can result in changes in the throat that may worsen your voice
What should I do if I get a voice problem despite following the above tips?
Get a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist who may refer you to a Speech Therapist
Good vocal care happens when we take care of our body and how we use our voice.
Contributed by Department of Rehabilitative Services.