Caring for your voice is a lifelong process, that requires vigilance to protect a very personal part of yourself from becoming seriously injured. Often called “Vocal Hygiene”, caring for your voice means learning to pay attention to the signals that your voice gives you so that you take the necessary steps to avoid getting injured in the first place. It also requires that you think ahead, learning to change certain behaviors which might lead to an injured voice.
Your vocal folds require moisture to work effectively. Anything that dries them out, from various drugs to any number of drying environments, should be avoided. There is a famous saying among singers “pee pale”. To pee pale one must drink enough water that you pass a lot of water when you urinate.
This means that you have more than enough water for your system to handle, which guarantees that your vocal folds will be well “irrigated”. How much water is that? Six to eight glasses per day – it is a lot! Most people actually go around slightly dehydrated all the time. With the popularity of bottled waters on the rise, this has changed significantly in recent years, but you don’t have to drink expensive water to be healthy. Make sure your water source is good, and get guzzling.
Beware the following “drying” irritants
- Cocaine (those that will admit to using it)
- Vitamin C (especially in large doses
- Cigarette smoke
- Marijuana smoke (often unfiltered, it can do more damage. If you “must” smoke pot, use a bong.)
You may be able to continue to use some of these items by drinking lots of water to compensate for their drying effects. Before a performance, or strenuous voice use, avoid them altogether. Of course, smoking is highly dangerous both to the health of voice (your lungs and larynx and mouth and throat) and of your body (including your heart). Quitting smoking is strenuously recommended by all voice teachers, though we understand how hard it can be.
If you are having trouble quitting smoking, seek advice, especially from a doctor, as they can now prescribe gums and patches to help you fight the need to quit. As for the caffeine, some people have recommended in the past that voice users “avoid brown drinks”, which would be a suggestion to avoid coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cola and root beer because they tend to have caffeine in them.
However, many non-brown drinks now have caffeine added to them, so you should be careful in choosing a “clear” drink over a brown one. By the way, decaffeinated coffee may have some caffeine in it (e.g. Starbuck’s House Blend still has 3% of the original caffeine in it: it is NOT caffeine free.)
Some irritants are problems because they cause the creation of copious thick mucous. The best way to deal with mucous is to be hyper hydrated so that the mucous remains thin, and can drain away.
Things to watch out for
- Dairy products
- Allergens & pollutants
The next group of things to watch out for tend to create upset stomach, which can cause gastric reflux. In this situation, the acids in the stomach rise up the esophagus to irritate the tissues of the vocal folds.
Watch out for
- Spicy foods
- Fad diets
Many people injure their voices by working too hard – by trying to compete against the sounds of loud machinery, loud music or crowd noise. If that is the case, try to use amplification equipment if it is appropriate. As stated before, you want to avoid drying environments.
Some industrial spaces, frequently rented for rehearsal space at low cost, are actually toxic not just to your voice but to your whole body. They may also have been used for industries that carry lots of allergens. I once worked in an abandoned fur trade building, and half the cast was allergic to the giant dust bunnies roaming the halls.
Avoid or use caution in spaces which are:
Voice Care: Remedies
Obviously you want to rehydrate your voice as best you can. Work in a humidified environment, if possible. Drink lots of water. Inhale steam – there are now portable steam inhalers available on the market, though the old technique still works well (and is great for your skin):
- Boil a pot of water on the stove
- Once boiling, remove the pot from the stove top
- Place your head over the steam
- Place a towel over your head and the pot
- Breathe deeply
There are a host of lozenges available in the market as well as home made ones but the efficacy is not proven.
Teas & Drinks
Most of these just make you feel better. Warmth helps sooth the pain, lemon is an astringent – so only use it when you feel like you have tons of mucous.
- Lemon & hot water
- Herbal Teas
- Ginger & Ginger Tea
- Pure Ginseng Tea
What is available at our centre?
Any voice disorder patient is examined in detail by Dr Raman Abrol and then if required Flexible laryngoscopy or video recording is done to diagnose the problem and plan the treatment. Conservative management in the form of medicines or Speech therapy by a trained Speech therapist is available at our centre. Surgical treatment in the form of Microlaryngeal surgery is also done when required by Dr Abrol.