Vocal health is a very important factor in the life of people who use their voices in their profession; like singers, actors, teachers, speakers, salespeople, radio announcers, secretaries, religious ministers, politicians and kids.
The voice becomes a problem when pitch, volume or the tone of the voice begins to draw attention to itself rather than to what the speaker is talking about. Sometimes the voice can sound too high, too soft, too nasal or hoarse, or can even cause pain to the speaker or singer.
Symptoms of vocal damage:
Breathiness, huskiness, hoarseness, loss of vocal power, monotone, sore or tense throat, losing the voice, pitch breaks and easy vocal fatigue.
Vocal nodules are often caused by abuse of the voice and are indicated by some of the above symptoms. The vocal folds are generally smooth, white mucous covered surfaces without any ridges or blemishes. With vocal abuse a haematoma - or bruise - can appear on the vibrating edge of the vocal folds and over time, if this is not given adequate rest and healing, the haematoma can become more fibrous and form into soft or hard nodules on the vocal folds. Generally they appear in pairs, one per fold and the combination of the two nodules meeting each other will not allow the vocal folds to meet cleanly and vibrate correctly and hence the often breathy or husky vocal tone that accompanies them.
Factors that contribute to voice problems
Screaming/Shouting - at sporting events, kids, parents, friends, pets, etc. Some singers scream when they sing, and this is very bad for long term vocal health.
Raising the voice - talking or singing in competition to other noises like a noisy classroom or social situation.
Smoking - smoking is a big factor in vocal damage for many people and so is passive smoking. Frequenting smoky places, socially, or as a performer, can be very detrimental to vocal health.
Coughing - coughing and clearing the throat causes the vocal folds to be abrasively rubbed together and this is damaging with regularity.
Talking when stressed - emotional and physical tension will contribute to the voice being constricted and talking in this situation may lead to vocal fatigue.
Work - some jobs are dependant upon the voice, and overuse of the voice in work situations could lead to vocal health problems.
How can we take care of our voices?
The simplest remedy for vocal health is to look after our own overall health. If we are down with a cold or fever, our voice will also be affected.
Here are some other more specific ideas for vocal health.
Turn the TV or radio down - instead of talking over the top of them.
Give up smoking - This is the best thing you could do for yourself vocally (and healthwise).
Drink lots of water - especially when talking or singing. Teachers should have a bottle of water in class with them.
Take fresh air breaks - especially in smoky or noxious environments.
Rest your voice - especially after lots of singing or talking.
Pace your voice - don’t use it too much, too often. Have rest breaks in between periods of use.
Try whistling instead - there are many ways other than yelling to let your team know of your support.
Swallow - instead of clearing the throat all the time, try swallowing, it reduces the abrasion.
Avoid too much stress - this goes without saying! Stay relaxed and your voice will thank you.
Don’t whisper - keep whispering to a minimum as it is quick to cause vocal fatigue.
Maintain good posture - an upright, balanced posture is very helpful in reducing stress on the body and promoting optimum vocal tone.
Avoid drying out medications - like cold cures and antihistamines etc.