Vocal Hygiene

It is important to remember a few things about keeping your voice in optimal working order.

Hydration

Adequate hydration is important for the vocal folds to maintain their elasticity and pliability. This directly relates to how a person's vocal quality sounds. Healthy tissue, hydrated from the inside and out, improves vocal cord and laryngeal performance for your entire system. Mucus covering the vocal folds is thin and lubricating when a person has enough hydration. Usually when patients report "sinus drainage" and a need to "clear the throat," the culprit is likely thick and sticky mucus that is coating the vocal cords and interfering with vibration.   Dry vocal cords require more effort to produce sound which can lead to fatigue and possible tissue changes. Many patients with voice disorders are not well hydrated.

  • Drink about 2 liters, or half your body weight in ounces of water per day
  • Consider a personal humidifier for topical hydration
  • Dr. Gould's Gargle (does not touch vocal cords, but can improve surrounding tissues)
  • Avoid or reduce caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, chocolate)
  • If you consume caffeine, make sure you drink water equal to the amount you consumed to counteract
  • Avoid or reduce alcohol consumption
  • Avoid first hand or second hand smoke
  • Use only non-mentholated cough drops (menthol dries out the vocal folds)

Medications

Medications you consume can dry out or irritate the delicate mucosal lining of your larynx and vocal cords. Antihistamines as well as others are drying. Beta blockers can trigger coughing episodes, and inhaled steroids can cause your vocal cord surfaces to thicken or to bow. For a complete list of mediations and how they can affect the voice, click here.

Decreasing Vocal Abuse/Misuse

Violently closing the vocal folds, such as when you cough or clear your throat, can cause laryngeal tissue trauma. If the trauma creates changes in your tissues, voice quality may be affected.

DO NOT

  • Do not clear your throat (adequate hydration will lessen this)
  • Do not cough
  • Do not scream, yell, shout
  • Do not talk loudly or "push" your voice
  • Do not overuse your voice by talking excessively
  • Do not speak loudly for long periods of time, especially in a noisy environment
  • Do not smoke or expose yourself to second-hand smoke

DO THIS INSTEAD

  • Instead of throat clearing, swallow hard and follow with water, sniff and swallow, or forcefully blow air through the airway
  • Try to quell your cough with non mentholated cough drops
  • Instead of yelling, use noisemakers, whistle, clap or stomp your feet, alter your parenting style by using silence and physical proximity, eliminate room-to-room talking, and exhale upon exertion when lifting heavy objects
  • Take a break after speaking or singing for a long period of time
  • Text or email things after heavy vocal use
  • Use amplification whenever possible and delegate any vocal tasks to others when you can.

 


 

 

 

 

References:

Williams, AJ, Baghat, MS, Stableforth, DE, Cayton, RM, Shenoi, PM, Skinner, C. Dysphonia caused by inhaled steroids: recognition of a characteristic laryngeal abnormality. Thorax. Nov 1983, 38 (11): 813-821.

Titze, Ingo R. Principles of Voice Production, Prentice-Hall 2000, National Center for Voice and Speech Iowa City, IA.

Clinical Voice Pathology: Theory and Management 4th Edition Stemple, Glaze & Klaben.