Check Up from the Neck Up: When to Give Your Voice a Break

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Anyone who uses their voice for a living knows that keeping their vocal instrument healthy is priority one. Those who regularly alter their voices for characters or use the top and low end of vocal extremes (screaming in video games, for example) can burn their voice out fast. There are a number of medical conditions, short and long-term, that can alter the quality and sound of the voice too.

How do you identify when something’s not right?
Your voice is often hoarse or raspy
Your voice has suddenly become deeper sounding
Your throat often feels raw, achy, or strained
You need to repeatedly clear your throat or cough
You find it difficult to speak

If any of these symptoms sound familiar it’s best to consult a doctor to determine the underlying cause. An ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) doctor is the best type of physician to care for your vocal health, especially if you use your voice professionally. Your GP (General Practitioner) will usually need to provide you with a referral.

What are some of the most common causes of throat irritation?
Upper respiratory infections
Allergies or Asthma
Acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD
Vocal misuse and overuse
Vocal nodules or laryngeal papillomatosis

Allergies are a common burden on the voice, often due to Postnasal Drip. That’s when there’s a constant drip from the back of your nose down the back of your throat. It’s not supposed to do that. This results in a sore, scratchy throat often accompanied by a persistent cough. If that occurs avoid taking over the counter Nasal Drips which can actually worsen the problem. A prescription drip medication will clear it up in about a week.

Most voice problems can be reversed by treating the underlying cause, through behavioral changes or, in extreme cases, surgical treatments. In many cases protecting the voice begins with prevention.

Here are some tips for preventing voice problems:
Drink six to eight glasses of good ol’ H20 per day. Lukewarm water is best to help relax the throat and keep you hydrated.
Limit caffeine intake which can cause the body to lose water and make the vocal folds and larynx dry.
Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol is dehydrating and irritates the mucous membranes that line the throat.
Try using a humidifier in your home. Thirty percent humidity is generally recommended.
Limit use of medications that dry out the voice, that includes some common cold and allergy medications. Consult your doctor to determine which over-the-counter medications are best for you.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet:
Smoking and second-hand smoke irritate the vocal folds and can cause cancer of the vocal folds.
Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus resulting in heartburn or GERD.
Eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C and keep the mucus membranes of the throat healthy.
Prevent the onset of cold or flu by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Not getting enough rest has negative effects on the voice.
Regular exercise increases stamina and muscle tone which encourages good posture and proper breathing.
Don’t gargle with mouthwash that contains alcohol, a salt water gargling solution is best.

Make sure you rest your voice:
Avoid recording when your voice is hoarse, tired, or when you’re sick.
Take periodic breaks throughout your day so your voice can rest.
Limit vocal extremes, such as screaming or whispering. Talking too loudly or too softly puts stress on your voice.
Learn and use proper breathing techniques. Support the voice by taking deep breaths from the chest.
Avoid talking from the throat. It puts a great deal of strain on the voice. Speak from the diaphragm.
Have you taken a recording break recently? Perhaps it’s time for that cup of warm water.

Note: this article is not a substitute for medical advice and is for informational purposes only. Seek out a licensed medical professional in your area if you have a genuine concern about your vocal health.

Lin Parkin is a writer and editor for Voice Over Times and She covers all things related to the voice-over industry including arts, entertainment, technology, business, and marketing.

Source: Voice Over Times

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