Voice problems are many times caused by a combination of physical, environmental, and situational factors. You can maximize the daily performance of your voice by following some general voice care guidelines.
• Drink water: Vocal folds that are well hydrated vibrate more efficiently and are less susceptible to injury. Your weight ÷ 2.2 = ounces of water per day you need.) Limit caffeine and alcohol, which cause dehydration to your system.
• Medications: Be aware that some medications can cause dryness. Dry environments can also effect hydration of your vocal folds. Dry air can occur from air conditioners and gas furnaces. Humidifiers can be helpful with compensating for dryness.
• Acid Reflux: When acid from the stomach travels all the way to the back of the throat, it is termed laryngo-pharyngeal reflux. The tissues in the throat (which include the larynx) are much more sensitive so that smaller amounts of acid to this area can result in more damage, thereby directly effecting the voice. Smoking: Smoking is bad for the heart, lungs, and vocal tract. Smoke is very irritating to the vocal folds, and in addition to causing hoarseness, can lead to cancer of the voice box.
• Avoid coughing and throat clearing.
• Avoid loud voice use. This includes shouting, screaming, excessive crying, and loud laughter. Be aware of pushing your voice in noisy environments which can cause significant muscle tension.
• Avoid overuse. Know the limits of your voice! Rest your voice before vocally demanding events.
Tips for Singers
• Always follow the hydration guidelines that were presented under Voice Care. As stated there, vocal folds that are well lubricated vibrate more efficiently and are less susceptible to injury. Singers are less likely to develop pathologies, such as, vocal nodules (nodes), polyps, cysts, etcetera if they consistently drink water.
• Always warm up the voice, even if pressed for time. Your vocal cords and surrounding structures are made of muscles and cartilage. They must be stretched in a healthy manner to avoid injury and to optimize vocal performance. Warming up can also improve the endurance of your voice. After singing, Cooling down the voice (in the same manner as a warm up) has also been shown to be beneficial, especially if you’ve ended your singing on the higher or lower end of your range.
• Sing with correct postural alignment. Be sure that your lower back, upper back, and neck are in proper placement for singing. Singing with poor posture can restrict proper breathing patterns and add tension to the larynx.
• Do not sing out of your natural range for extended periods of time.
• For singers and actors, the use of character voices, loud voices, and excessive voice use all present a challenge. Be aware of pushing your voice when attempting to project. Learn how to project your voice properly, with correct placement, phrasing, and breath support.
• Never completely stop “one on one” vocal instruction. For various reasons, a singer’s technique can change subtly and quickly. A singing instructor will modify any negative changes and reinforce the things you are doing right. Even professional athletes work closely under the guidance of a coach.
• If you are hoarse for more than two weeks, you should see an Ear Nose, and Throat (ENT) physician and a speech-language pathologist.