Minimize Voice Damage

Edited by Vanessa Alexandra Avisado, Lynn, Eng, Maria Quinney and 1 other

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There are many forms of communication, but verbal communication is often the most useful and effective. Throughout every day, people use their voices to communicate at work, with family members, and countless other individuals they may meet. Talking is something we mostly take for granted, but you will definitely miss it when you lose your voice due to overusing it or because of an illness. If you are suffering from voice damage, read on to find some tips on how to minimize it.

There are some people who use their voice more often than others. Some even rely on it for their livelihood. If you are a professional who depends on your voice in your profession - teacher, call center agent, singer, lawyer, salesman, actor, clergy, telephone operator, or broadcaster - or you're the type who frequently shouts or screams, then you have higher risk of damaging your voice. Whether you're a professional who needs to use your voice a lot or not, it cannot be overemphasized how important it is to take care of your asset. A healthy voice is vital in clear verbal communication. Knowing how to maintain the health and effectiveness of your voice ensures that only the right sound quality is produced.

Common Voice Problems

Just as people usually walk without thinking about it, the same thing happens when you speak without thinking how voice is produced. It only gets your attention when voice problems characterized by hoarseness and instability arise. In all cases, these problems are indicative that something is wrong with the vocal cords.

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The vocal cords are two bands of flexible muscle tissues found in the voice box or larynx above the windpipe or trachea. When not in use, the cords are open, creating air passages vital to breathing. Whenever you speak, the air expelled from the lungs forces through the closed vocal cords, causing them to vibrate. A faster or slower vibration produces high and low pitched sounds, respectively. Like the other tissues in the body, the vocal cords are susceptible to damages, infections, diseases, and trauma.

When one or more of these conditions are present, you will start to feel a variety of symptoms that indicate damaged vocal cords. These include:

  • Hoarse or grating voice
  • Raw and achy throat
  • Difficulty talking
  • Habitual clearing of the throat
  • People associate your coarse voice with a cold
  • Failure to hit high notes
  • Fever

Voice problems may arise due to several factors and depending on how you use it. Voice damage can be caused by an injury or certain disorders. Although a majority of these disorders are non-life threatening and easy to treat, some can be more damaging to the voice if not given early and proper medical attention.

Common vocal cord disorders

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  • Vocal cord nodules
  • Vocal cord polyps
  • Vocal cord tumors
  • Vocal cord paresis and vocal cord paralysis
  • Contact ulcers
  • Laryngitis

Steps to be taken to minimize voice damage

  1. 1
    Keep the body well hydrated
    Drink the ideal six to eight glasses of water every day to maintain a healthy voice. Keeping the body hydrated will optimize the throat's mucus production essential in lubricating the vocal cords.
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  2. 2
    Stop smoking cigarettes
    The throat is the primary organ to be damaged by cigarette smoking. Needless to say, smoking can lead to any or multiple vocal cord disorders. If you value your voice, give up smoking.
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  3. 3
    Reduce intake of caffeine and alcohol
    Both of these drinks have a dehydrating effect that drains the moisture from the body, including the vocal cords.
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  4. 4
    Protect yourself from smoke-filled and dusty environments
    These are dry environments that can significantly affect your voice condition. If you can't avoid these places, provide yourself with protection and maintain good water intake.
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  5. 5
    Use the voice properly
    Avoid screaming, yelling, or speaking in loud voice. This can dry and cause irritation to the throat. If you're in a noisy environment, use non-verbal signs or visual aids to convey your message. You may also use vocal amplifiers so that you can be heard instead of straining in an unnatural pitch.
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  6. 6
    Minimize throat clearing
    The act of clearing the throat is similar to slapping the vocal cords together. Frequent throat clearing will eventually injure the vocal cords, resulting in hoarseness. It is better to drink water or simply swallow to clear the throat and ease the urge to cough.
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  7. 7
    Preserve your voice when it is already hoarse
    Reduce use of your voice use when symptoms of respiratory infection are present. Continuous abuse or misuse of your voice can cause permanent and serious damage to the already swollen vocal cords.
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  8. 8
    Turn on the humidifier
    Use a humidifier to eliminate dry air that damages the vocal cords. Run a humidifier unit while you sleep at night.
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  9. 9
    Consume fruits and green leafy vegetables
    Food items that are rich in vitamin C provide the body with a healthy immune system, thus preventing illnesses such as flu or tonsillitis, which are damaging to the vocal cords.
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  10. 10
    Perform simple vocal exercises to restore the voice to its optimum condition
    The following exercises are recommended to reduce or remedy unwanted voice problems.  
    1. Sit with a straight back and place your open palms flat on the stomach with the fingertips barely touching. Breathe through the nose and push out the stomach, seeing to it that the fingertips separate. After three counts, release the air as you slowly draw the stomach in with the fingertips touching again. Repeat the step five times.
    2. Shrug your shoulders reaching to your ears then relax. Do the exercise five times.
    3. Rest your head on your chest, then go back to normal position. After repeating five times, change the move by gently rolling the head from side to side, also five times.
    4. Maintain the chin horizontally and look over each shoulder five times.
    5. Inhale deeply, then release the air out while producing a long sighing sound for three times.
    6. Inhale then exhale while making a prolonged "h" sound combined with any vowel, such as "h...aaaa," or "" sustain your breath as long as you can. Repeat with other vowels or replace the h with other consonants.
    7. Count from 1 to 20, pronouncing every fifth number with extra stress. Repeat the process, choosing to stress on another series of numbers.
    8. Read aloud some text from printed materials without giving too much strain to your voice box.
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Your voice is a valuable tool for communication, social interaction and sometimes for your occupation. Caring and using it properly gives you an assurance of having a healthy voice that can expressly say what you think and feel in your entire lifetime. If you have sustained damage in your voice, consult an otolaryngologist.

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Tips, tricks and warnings

  • If you have a job that requires you to utilize your voice a lot, set aside some quiet periods to rest your vocal cords.
  • Don't attempt to talk over a loud noise.
  • Don't consume too many spicy foods to avoid laryngeal irritation.
  • Consider attending an anger management seminar if you often find yourself shouting to express anger.
  • Protect yourself from chemical irritants, such as domestic cleaning solutions and aerosol products that may potentially irritate the throat.
  • Maintain proper posture. Don't hunch over your work table to avoid straining the neck muscles.
  • Apply steam inhalation to thin out mucus in the nose and throat.
  • Aside from water, you may also sip warm tea or juices to soothe the vocal cords.
  • Eat in small bites to make it easier to swallow.
  • Don't let coughs worsen. Treat them early on to prevent the build-up of mucus that can lead to hacking coughs.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


Article Info

Categories : Voice Lessons & Tips

Recent edits by: Maria Quinney, Eng, Lynn

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