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Vocal Hygiene

This is a short article on Vocal Hygiene - it is not meant to replace professional medical advice. As we say at the end of the article, if you have any doubts you should always consult your medical professional.

Keep the voice well hydrated – try to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water per day, not including coffee, tea or soft drinks.

Eliminate excessive throat clearing or coughing - swallow instead.

Excessive clearing or coughing can be a nervous habit or a sign of vocal fatigue.  Instead try hard swallowing – take a deep breath, push air out and swallow.

Avoid smoking.  Apart from being dangerous to your health, it will reduce your range, dehydrate your vocal folds, and may produce cancer of the larynx.

Avoid excessive alcohol and certainly don’t drink within 24 hours of a performance or during one!  Alcohol, amongst other things, causes dehydration.

Avoid prolonged periods of loud taking, screaming or shouting.

Try to avoid using your voice continuously for long periods of time.  Program ‘voice naps’ into your day.

Try to limit the amount of talking/singing during colds or laryngitis.

If you have to talk all day, make sure you use your support system.  Teachers – get some lessons from a Voice Specialist and keep your speaking voice for your whole career!

Ensure that you breathe through your nose especially if you work in dry/dusty areas – or wear a dust mask.

Allergies – be careful with medication that may dry you out – check with your medical practitioner or pharmacist.

If you are a choral director, sing only the parts that are appropriate for your singing range – you can always sing it an octave lower or higher.

Be happy and laugh a lot!

Colds/Flu

Some thoughts that have worked for us on getting through these times:

  • Proper pineapple juice – marvellous for sore throats.
  • Bromalaine/Betadine for sore throats.
  • Lots of steam inhalations.

Hoarseness

This can be caused by:

  • Poor speech habits
  • Over singing (singing too much ) or singing/speaking too loudly
  • Singing with a forced straight tone for long hours – some choirs
  • Singing for too many hours in one day
  • Air conditioning
  • Air travel
  • Central heating with low humidity
  • Constant throat clearing
  • Too much alcohol
  • Medications such as decongestants that dry the throat
  • Medications like aspirin and ibuprofen that cause local bleeding
  • Smoking
  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual period
  • Sore throat
  • Cold/flu

Laryngitis

This is an inflammation of the vocal folds and surrounding tissue.  It can be bacterial or viral.

If the gunk is greenish and foul looking, it is usually bacterial.

Viral laryngitis is not usually helped by any medication.

You can help yourself be keeping the throat moist at all times and remaining quiet.  So, drink lots of water, get a good book or a movie and rest.

A persistent sore throat could be symptomatic of a viral or bacterial infection, postnasal drip – so maybe you should get this checked out.

Vocal Nodules

When people sing or speak with excessive tension or poor vocal technique they abuse the vocal folds.  The vocal folds bang together and create a swelling like a corn (or a wart) on the inner edges.  This may begin as a blood clot and slowly develop into something firmer and larger.  The swelling or nodule prevents the vocal folds from touching cleanly and allows excess air through the resulting chink.

A sure sign of this is constant hoarseness or breathiness throughout the speaking and singing voice.  There is a loss of vocal range and a tendency for the voice to sound breathy, weak and tired.

See a specialist as soon as possible.

Acid reflux

This is very common in singers, given the pressure we are putting on the diaphragm.  It normally happens during sleep when stomach acids are regurgitated.  It can also have an effect on the voice as the burning sensation comes up the throat and irritates the vocal folds and can lead to severe damage if not treated promptly.

Live Long and Prosper

Look after yourself and if in doubt, consult your medical practitioner and get a referral to a specialist if you feel this is appropriate.

 

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