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Promoting a healthy voice: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

Ten Easy Steps for Keeping Your Natural Voice
(Based on Daniel Boone in 'Is your voice telling on you?')

  1. Cut down on throat clearing, coughing (where possible) and shouting

    In all these activities the vocal cords, are actually 'banged' together quite violently, instead of closing gently as do they in normal voice.

    This will not only cause irritation to the cords, but the irritated mucosal tissue of the vocal cords will then exude its own mucus and you will want to throat clear even more! The process becomes self-generating.

    Where shouting is the cause of the vocal abuse, see step number 2.

    Where coughing is the cause then take what measures you can to relieve the cough - make sure you don't cough unnecessarily - and observe step number 1.

    Where throat clearing is the cause try a good hard swallow - increasing the salivary flow to help swallow by gently squeezing teeth onto tongue, inner cheeks or lips. If that is not sufficient then make a gentle uh hum noise with the cords and then try swallowing. Sometimes a 'silent cough' is suggested.

  2. Avoid talking in a noisy environment: watch the noise level

    Everyone experiences vocal strain when trying to talk against the obviously and impossible noisy background wherever that is. Staff rooms can be pretty noisy environments!

    Watch out for other settings where the background noise can be problematic, but less obvious, e.g. during a long car ride, talking against loud background music at home, against the television etc.

  3. Try to reduce some of the demands on your voice. Don't do all the talking!

    Some voices are affected by overwork. To maintain a healthy, natural voice it is important to cut down on excessive talking. Being the life and soul of the party is great but overdoing it can result in negative voice symptoms, such as hoarseness or weak voice, especially when you keep the act up when you are not feeling at all as buoyant as you are putting over.

    Remember Step Number 3.

  4. Watch your water needs

    Excessive dryness is hard on the voice.

    Excessive dryness in the atmosphere can irritate the membranes covering the vocal cords and cause swelling.

    Dust, pollutants, irritants can all further irritate already irritable or vulnerable vocal cords.

    Sipping water is a simple helpful remedy - and avoiding the extremes of liquid or food temperatures - as well as avoiding spicy foods.

    Increasing the liquid intake also helps to 'liquidify' the thick, tackiness of mucus and helps make it easier to dispose of through swallowing.

    NB: Avoid medicated throat lozenges. In time they can cause further irritation. To help 'lubricate' the throat use non-medicated pastilles, chewing gum (if you can cope with it!) or simply apply the trick of squeezing the teeth onto the tongue, lips or inner cheeks to increase salivary flow.

  5. Try to develop an easy/soft vocal style

    Vocal attack is related to the degree of abruptness with which we say our words.

    The soft legato-like voice is much easier on the vocal cords … and generally on the ears of the listeners!

    Hard voice attack takes a lot of effort. The larynx tires easily and the vocal cords can become irritated from such continuous abrupt usage.

    Try listening critically to others and deciding whether they are using hard or soft attack.

  6. Use a pitch that is natural for you

    Most people will get better mileage out of their voice by using an average pitch level that is several notes above our lowest note.

    This is the best and optimum pitch for us given our own particular vocal mechanism. It is the one we would use about 70% of the t