Maintaining a healthy voice is important for establishing and preserving relationships and communicating adequately with others. Your voice is invaluable for social interaction and essential for many occupations. You can take easy yet effective steps to prevent or reduce problems associated with hoarseness and protect your voice for life.
Follow this list to assess the health of your voice:
Voice problems arise from a variety of reasons including voice overuse or misuse, infection, injury, or sometimes cancer. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy voice:
Keeping your body well hydrated by drinking plenty of water (six to eight glasses) each day is essential for many health benefits. Your vocal cords vibrate extremely fast even when producing the simplest sound; staying hydrated with water helps your throat produce plenty of mucous, which lubricates your vocal cords. You should avoid or moderate substances that cause dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soda). Sweetened or carbonated beverages also do not hydrate the body as well as water. Be sure to drink extra water while exercising.
It is well known that smoking can lead to lung or voice box (laryngeal) cancer. When you or someone you know breathes in primary or secondhand smoke, it passes by the vocal cords and can cause significant irritation and swelling. This can permanently change the quality, nature, and capability of your voice.
Your voice is not indestructible. In everyday communication, be sure to avoid habitual yelling or screaming. Be aware of background noise; you may naturally be tempted to raise your voice in loud environments, but this can harm your voice over time. If you feel like your throat is dry, tired, or your voice is becoming hoarse, stop talking and take a break.
To reduce or minimize voice abuse or misuse, use non-verbal or visual cues to attract attention especially with children. Obtain a voice amplifier if you routinely need to use a louder-than-normal voice in certain settings. And try to always speak in a normal vocal range or pitch; using an extremely low or high pitch can damage your vocal cords.
Clearing your throat is like slapping or slamming your vocal cords together. That is why excessive or repetitive throat clearing can injure your vocal cords and cause hoarseness. Instead, try taking small sips of water or simply swallowing to clear any secretions or blockage from your throat. If you experience a frequent need to clear your throat you may have an untreated medical condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, laryngopharyngeal reflux, sinusitis, or certain allergies.
Limit the use of your voice as much as possible when your voice is hoarse due to excessive use or an upper respiratory infection (cold). Singers and professional speakers should be cautious when their voice becomes hoarse or they have a serious sore throat, so they don’t cause permanent damage to their vocal cords.
Listen to what your voice is telling you and learn more about your voice. Proper care and use of your voice will give you the best chance for having a healthy voice for your entire lifetime.
If you have hoarseness or other voice problems that do not go away with proper rest and care, contact an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, for medical advice and consultation.