You will be hard put to it to imagine a situation where you won’t have to make use of your voice. As you go through your day, you say a lot of things – and don’t think twice about it. You don’t often give a thought to how your voice sounds and what impression it produces. Actually, it’s only when our voice is impaired or gone temporarily that we take notice and take care of it. Sadly, it’s usually a sign of neglecting it badly. But when we strain our vocal cords judiciously and mindfully, we do them a favor.
Still, if it is a case of long-term misuse or even abuse we can find ourselves in the grip of a bad vocal issue. This may seriously threaten those who use their voice regularly and voluminously address multiple people – singers, teachers’ politicians, trainers.
What can you do to avoid vocal damage?
Your Voice Depends On How You Breathe
In the natural course of things, we practice diaphragmatic breathing – that is, when the stomach extends with every breath. This type of breathing allows one to breathe easily and deeply and emit good sounds sans overstraining. This should be distinguished from faulty breathing – it is not so good if we expand the chest and raise shoulders when breathing in.
Vocal cords welcome warming up
Start with a humming exercise – just hum for 15 seconds and repeat it on different pitches. Yawn several times, say some tongue twisters. Sing “ma-ma “several times on different pitches, then “nia-nia “– it should sound like a whining baby, very nasal. The sound shouldn’t be nice! Get on to an “ng “(like in the “sing “) and take it all over the musical scale. Starting with the lowest key, you can manage and go to the highest note you hit effortlessly.
Here is a great warmup for both speakers and singers:
Do some humming while wearing a special face expression
Pretend you feel like scratching your lips to chase away the itchy sensation. This will make your sound form at the front of your mouth – see it doesn’t drop down your throat. When your sounds are frontal, you feel more comfortable and don’t strain as much as when you speak gutturally.
Here are some great tips on what you can do about a damaged voice:
Have a stock of mints, drops etc. within easy reach
Speaking a lot you wouldn’t like your throat to go dry, you feel great when there is enough saliva, and your whistle is well-moisturized. If you stand in need of this, stock up on mints and eat green apples that are very good for saliva glands.
Make sure there is enough hydration
Good hydration is something your throat is going to appreciate. As they get drier the mucous membranes lose the ability to make sounds soft and smooth. If a speaker feels embarrassed or anxious, saliva glands perform worse, and the mouth begins to get dry. But it’s nothing that a glass of water won’t settle.
The thing is, not everybody has the habit of regular hydration – especially when they have a lot to do. So mind you have a good supply of water – and make use of it. As you make coffee breaks, arrange for frequent water breaks.
There are beverages and habits that are better avoided
According to some studies, drinking milk and other dairy products produces a sort of a coating effect that can muffle the sounds and make you want to clear your throat again and again. This can interfere badly with a long speech.
While it’s vital for vocal folds to be well-moisturized, smoking gets them dry. Listen to the voices of inveterate smokers: they are rather raspy and lacking in color.
Other powerful dehydrators are strong and caffeinated drinks. If you take care of your voice, follow up on your drinking by taking large amounts of water.
Whenever you can, give your voice a rest
Be careful to notice when your voice gets strained or when your throat begins to ache. Then you need to give your vocal folds a rest. If you have to speak on, make your remarks more concise. Avoid all conversational situations diligently in case of laryngitis or a sore throat.
Never attempt speaking if your voice fails you – this will be very detrimental to your vocal cords. When it becomes necessary to speak, make your voice low and breathy to avoid overstraining. You may need to consult a throat therapist if you feel the issue may become recurrent.
Clearing throat isn’t a good habit either
Air should pass freely in and out, creating no strain. Clearing the throat makes vocal cords clam suddenly, thereby creating tension. Anything in this nature spoils the chances of the voice being mellifluous, healthy and strong.
If the membranes are especially delicate, this practice can even cause some damage. See to it that when you clear the throat, you do it very softly. When you feel like clearing your throat, try to suppress the wish and down some water instead – it may work better!
Stand when you are speaking
As you make a speech or deliver a presentation, do it standing. This way you ensure that your neck and head are more relaxed. Sitting for a long stretch of time often makes people thrust their jaw forward, that puts extra stain on the neck muscles.
Don’t raise your voice without necessity
Raising the voice invariably means more strain on the vocal folds, logically decreasing the sound quality. On occasions when you have to speak louder, employ the following technique:
• Concentrate on your diaphragmatic area.
• Breathe in deeply.
• Contract the diaphragm muscles and make your breath energy more powerful.
Your voice will have a mighty air backup.
Picture a scene when you spot a person bagging something which doesn’t belong to them. You wish to attract their attention and call out “hey, you!” It will come from low down, from your diaphragm area. It makes your voice sound louder, but your vocal cords don’t get strained.
Another tip could be breathing like a dog on a hot day – with your tongue out. This way, you make your diaphragm contract. Do this from time to time for a few seconds to remind yourself to breathe correctly if you notice yourself straining your voice while speaking or singing.
Don’t rely too much on whispering
It’s a moot point yet if whispering is bad for the voice – different experts say different things. When you whisper, your vocal folds don’t vibrate and your larynx doesn’t get involved either. But when whispering, people are apt to press vocal cords together. It is not needed for whispering, but it happens all the same, and if you do it by applying a lot of strength, it can result in doing harm.