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Keep your voice healthy

Do’s and don’ts for a healthy voice

You use it every day to communicate, but do you ever think about how to keep your voice healthy? Piedmont speech-language pathologists share their tips for keeping your voice in top form. Tips courtesy of the Speech-Language Pathology Department at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

Do: Drink more water

Aim to drink at least eight to 10 glasses a day. Staying hydrated helps protect the mucus covering of the vocal folds and allows them to vibrate more effectively. Water also helps your throat feel less irritated, whether you are speaking frequently throughout the day, are ill or have allergies. 

Don’t: Overdo it with “drying agents”

Drying agents include:

  • Caffeine: i.e., sodas, coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.
  • Alcohol: i.e. wine, beer, liquor.
  • Medications that have a drying effecton vocal fold tissues such as antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, and over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies.
  • Mentholin cough drops or mint. Substitute non-menthol hard candies (i.e., lemon drops, fruit flavor, etc.)

Do: Warm up before speaking extensively

“I recommend to professional voice users – such as singers, actors, sales associates and teachers – that they warm up their voices prior to significant voice use,” says Laura Aleshire, M.A., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

Natasha Peacock, MCD, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist at Piedmont Newnan Hospital, says while there is no standard for vocal warm-ups, she suggests the following tongue twisters for vocal relaxation and better articulation.

  • Red leather yellow leather.
  • Unique New York.
  • The big black bug bled blue black blood.

Don’t: Push through hoarseness

“When the voice is hoarse or irritated, voice rest is the best thing for it,” says Aleshire. “Do not push through hoarseness or illness – allow your voice time to heal prior to using it in the typical way.”

Do: Manage your heartburn

Stomach acid reflux from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can travel to larynx and greatly irritate the vocal folds. Reflux may occur “silently” without physical symptoms of heartburn. Try the following to minimize stomach acid reflux:

  • Avoid spicy and fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Do not eat three to four hours before lying down.
  • Avoid large meals and overeating.
  • Lose weight if appropriate.
  • Sleep with the head of the bed elevated.
  • Consistently take medications if they have been prescribed by a physician.

Don’t: Smoke or use tobacco products

If you need yet another reason to quit smoking or using tobacco products, do it for the sake of your voice. If you are a nonsmoker, avoid secondhand smoke and other airborne irritants as much as possible.

Do: Break bad voice habits

Eliminate or reduce the following habits – known as laryngeal traumatic behaviors – that result in inefficient sound production and/or vocal fold misuse, potentially leading to irritation and damage.

  • Yelling/shouting/loud laughing
  • Excessive/harsh throat clearing
  • Chronic coughing
  • Competing with background noise
  • Loud speaking volume
  • Speaking for extended periods of time
  • Speaking while sick or with an upper respiratory infection
  • Lengthy telephone conversations
  • Whispering

Don’t: Ignore persistent symptoms  

“If vocal symptoms persist for longer than one week, ask your doctor about a referral to an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist),” says Aleshire.

Use these tips to keep your voice healthy and strong for life.

For more information on speech-language pathology, visit Piedmont Rehabilitation.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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