Maintaining Vocal Health: 8 Tips for Protecting Your Voice

Whether you’re a voice actor, announcer, singer, or just someone who uses their voice all the time, there are a few simple ways that you can maintain a healthy voice.

What Is Vocal Health?

Vocal health refers to the function of your vocal cords—sometimes known as your voice box—which are two bands of muscle located in the larynx that vibrate when you speak or sing. Many things can impact your vocal health, from cigarette smoking to simple throat clearing. It is especially important for voice actors and singers to prioritize vocal health, because the simple wear-and-tear of everyday voice use can compromise the integrity of their instrument.

8 Tips for Protecting Your Voice

As a voice actor or singer, the one tool you must keep safe under all circumstances is your vocal cords. Of course, some issues might be outside your control—upper respiratory infections, the growth of nodules. But there’s plenty you can do to optimize your vocal health. To preserve your full vocal range, follow this regimen.

1.Don’t strain your voice when you speak.

The extreme ends of your vocal range put stress on your voice, so you should try to stay in the middle—meaning, avoid screaming or whispering. If you need to speak publicly to a large crowd, use a microphone and amplification. Try to practice good breathing techniques when talking—deep breaths, drawing from your diaphragm—since using your throat alone can put unwanted strain on your voice.

2.Consume plenty of water.

Stay hydrated. Human vocal cords vibrate quickly—up to several hundred cycles per second—and proper hydration keeps them lubricated. Ideally, you should drink six to eight glasses of water per day. Foods like apples (or applesauce), pears, watermelon, peaches, melons, grapes, plums, and bell peppers also contain significant amounts of water.

3.Follow a healthy diet.

A healthy diet will help avoid acid reflux or heartburn, both of which are potential symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD)—a condition in which your stomach acid washes back up into your esophagus, causing your voice to become hoarse. Try to limit or avoid consumption of alcohol and caffeine, both of which can also dry out your vocal cords and larynx. Alcohol also irritates the mucous membranes that line the throat. If you’re suffering from a hoarse voice, use lozenges to soothe the discomfort.

4.Get plenty of rest.

Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Train your body and mind to shut down so you get the rest you need to recover before or after a performance. Rest is especially important if your voice is already hoarse. Each day, take time out for vocal naps: Let your voice rest and avoid extended periods of use. Resting your voice is vital to avoid overuse symptoms such as nodules or polyps on your vocal folds.

5.Protect your ability to breathe.

Steer clear of firsthand and second-hand smoke (cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, etc.). Smoke can irritate the vocal cords and even lead to throat pharyngeal or laryngeal cancer. Use a humidifier at home, as maintaining ideal humidity (30 percent) in your living space will help prevent your vocal cords from drying out.

6.Avoid clearing your throat.

Whenever possible, avoid clearing your throat. It’s a violent action for your vocal cords and can potentially make you hoarse or, in extreme circumstances, injure your throat. If you feel the urge, try swallowing or taking a sip of water instead.

7.Prioritize health and hygiene.

Prevent yourself from catching a cold or the flu, which will give you a sore throat and diminish your voice. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. If you do come down with a bug, try to avoid dehydrating cold and allergy medications. Instead, consult a doctor for treatments that are kinder to your vocal cords. Same goes for persistent bad breath, which can be a possible sign of infection in your nose, sinuses, tonsils, gums, or lungs, or the result of gastric acid reflux from the stomach. Stay away from mouthwashes with alcohol or other chemical irritants. Just like alcoholic drinks, these can dry out your vocal cords.

8.Warm-up and cool down before performing.

Whenever you’re going to perform, do a vocal warm-up before and a vocal cool-down when you’re finished, especially for a singing voice. This loosens up the muscles and can help prevent injury. Try not to strain or tense your neck muscles even when you’re pushing yourself because this can ultimately reduce your vocal range. Make an effort to exercise regularly. Increased stamina and better muscle tone can help to improve your posture and breathing—both of which are key for proper speaking.

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