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How to protect your voice

Just like any other parts of your body, your vocal organs are subject to wear and tear.

If your work depends on using your voice, for example if you are a performer, singer, teacher, public speaker, lawyer, sales representative, telephonist, or caller centre operator, then you are especially vulnerable to vocal strain.  Some problems can be temporary and right themselves quickly.  However, wear and tear on the vocal organs can lead to serious, and sometimes permanent, damage.

How do you know when your voice is not healthy?

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, it’s a sign that you may have a voice problem (short or long term).

  • hoarseness or a raspy voice.
  • recurring or persistent sore throat.
  • loss of voice when speaking.
  • repeatedly needing to clear your throat, and
  • for the singer, difficulty hitting the high notes you once could.

Most people who speak for a living, experience some vocal issues from time to time and that’s why it’s important to take care of those all-important vocal instruments.  Here is some advice:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Take regular sips of water whenever you are required to speak for prolonged periods of time
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption, especially before speaking to an audience.
  • Avoid speaking for long periods. Take frequent breaks to rest your voice.
  • Use a humidifier in your home. This is especially important in winter or in dry climates.
  • Be aware that some medications dry out the vocal folds. Consult your doctor if this seems to be a problem.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet.
  • Don’t smoke or expose yourself to passive smoking. Smoke irritates the vocal folds.
  • Avoid spicy foods which can cause heartburn or GERD.
  • Ensure you are rested as physical fatigue has a negative effect on voice.
  • Rest your voice when you are sick. Illness puts extra stress on your voice.
  • Avoid using the extremes of your vocal range. Yelling, screaming or whispering can all cause damage. Talking too loudly and too softly can both stress your voice.
  • Use a microphone when addressing a large audience, or communicating in a noisy environment. Trying to talk above the noise causes unnecessary strain and can lead to permanent damage.

Consult a speech pathologist if you even suspect that you are not using your voice in a healthy way.

Frequently asked questions about vocal health


Q: Does whispering save your voice?

A: No, not really. It can put additional strain on the voice and be as damaging as shouting.

Q: Which foods and drinks can help heal your voice? Which can damage your voice?

A: A healthy diet is essential and water is by far the best way to hydrate. Staying hydrated helps your body produce thin, watery mucus. Your vocal cords vibrate more than100 times a second when you speak, and they need that mucus to help them stay lubricated.

Q: How can I prevent damage to my voice?

  • Warm up your voice before extensive use, just like you would warm up your muscles before exercise.
  • Avoid over-using your voice when you are suffering from a throat infection or laryngitis.
  • Rest your voice when it feels strained or tired.
  • Drink lots of water to remain hydrated.
  • Seek out a medical practitioner if you have been hoarse for more than a week.

Q: What are some home remedies to relieve a hoarse voice?

A: Steam inhalation be helpful because it brings the water into direct contact with the vocal cords.

Q: How can I ensure a clear and strong voice? 

A: The techniques for good voice production include: good posture, correct method of breathing, well controlled breathing and forward placement of the voice.

Q: Do environmental changes impact on the voice?

A: Yes, allergy can irritate the vocal cords due to the continual need to clear the throat. Common household heating systems can also dry the air and see you struggling with thick mucus. If this is a problem for you, consider installing a humidifier. Smoke can irritate the vocal cords and airways too, so avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

Q: What are vocal cord nodules and polyps? How are they treated?

A: Vocal cord nodules and polyps are examples of wear and tear injuries. Nodules are a thickening of the vocal cord lining and usually occur on both vocal cords. Polyps are growths that usually develop on one vocal cord. Nodules and polyps can be treated, although sometimes it requires surgery.

Q: Can acid reflux damage my vocal cords?

A: Yes, acid reflux can affect the vocal cords.

To prevent damage from reflux, learn what foods cause the issue for you.  Avoid spicy food; and don’t eat or consume alcohol or fizzy drinks for at least two hours prior to bedtime; and watch your weight. If these interventions don’t work, seek consult with your GP.