Vocal Health: Do's and Don'ts
Laura Chua Teng Teng, Senior Speech Therapist from the Speech Therapy Department at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) shares the do's and don'ts for good vocal health.
To maintain good vocal health,
sing only in a comfortable pitch and loudness range for your voice.
Follow these do's and don'ts to maintain good vocal health
Voice problems are usually caused by a combination of factors: The way a person uses his or her voice, the physical environment in which the voice is used, and increased stress and tension.
An unhealthy diet and lifestyle and respiratory tract infections, such as the flu, can also contribute to a voice problem. The best way to prevent voice problems from developing (or worsening) is to establish good voice care habits. The following are suggestions on how to maintain good vocal health.
- Drink frequent sips of water to keep the vocal tract well hydrated. It is recommended that you drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily.
- Balance your voice use throughout the day. If you have a vocally demanding day ahead, avoid talking when it is not necessary. When you are ill or tired, rest your voice, along with your body.
- Pay attention to how your voice is feeling. Rest your voice if your throat feels tired, dry or sore.
- Sing only in a comfortable pitch and loudness range for your voice. Do not sing in positions that can cause tension in your neck and head, for example throwing your head back, or jerking your neck forward.
- Keep your jaw open and relaxed, instead of clenching your teeth or tensing the jaw when you speak or sing.
- Avoid foods and drinks that can promote acid reflux and increase mucus secretions in the throat. Common problem foods include fried, oily and spicy food, full-cream dairy products, chocolates and nuts. Caffeinated and carbonated beverages should also be avoided.
- Be aware of the effect emotions can have on you. Stress and anxiety can contribute to physical tension in sites like the throat, neck, chest and shoulders. These areas should be relaxed to produce an easy voice. Consider undertaking relaxation activities (e.g. exercise) if you experience high stress levels.
- Whisper –‘underusing’ your voice can cause strain and muscle tension in your voice box.
- Try to sing or talk extensively when you have a respiratory tract infection, for example the cold or flu. Rest your voice until you have recovered from the infection.
- Cough or clear your throat habitually, which can contribute to vocal cord injury. Swallow your saliva and take sips of water instead.
- Squeeze or push your voice out in a tense or hard way – this uses excessive force in the throat.
- Talk or shout above high noise levels, or across large spaces. Instead, move nearer and face the person you are talking to. Use non-verbal means such as gestures to gain attention and convey some of your messages. If needed, use a microphone to speak to a large audience.
- Try to speak beyond a breath cycle, or squeeze out the last few words from your remaining breath. Pause at natural speaking boundaries to replace your breath before continuing.
- Expose your voice to dusty, polluted and dry environments. This includes keeping away from smokers or smoky places.
- Ignore prolonged hoarseness or throat discomfort. Consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms for more than two weeks.