By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 06-19-2019 | First published: 08-01-2007
Most of us don't consider voice health until we lose it. We open our mouths to speak and 99% of the time we do so with ease.
However for a large and growing number of people 'speaking easy' is something they no longer take for-granted.
If you're a teacher, a call center worker, a coach, a radio journalist, a professional speaker, a singer, an actor, a sales-professional or involved in any other type of work relying heavily on voice, you'll know how much depends on keeping it healthy and stress-free. You'll also know how difficult that can sometimes be.
A thorough warm up routine before using your voice for any extended time rewards you twice over. Firstly you minimize the possibility of straining/stressing your voice and secondly, it helps channel any nervous tension positively.
The best warm up routine involves exercises for your body, breath and voice. All three are covered on this page of vocal warm ups.
Allocate at least 5 -10 minutes to prepare before you are required to start work.
Your voice directly reflects the quality of your breathing.
Small shallow breaths will result in a higher pitched and squeezed sounding voice. As well as that, poor breathing habits increase the likelihood of vocal stress and heighten any anxiety you may feel.
Here are two
highly effective breath exercises with multiple variations that I know will really help. Do them and you'll sound better, as well as feel better!
Are you standing or sitting well? Are your breath and your voice supported fully? If you slouch both are compromised, and you'll lose power physically and psychologically.
Keep hydrated! The recommended water intake is 8 glasses a day. You need it to keep your vocal equipment in optimum working condition. Think of it as the lubricant.
Caffeinated drinks - tea or coffee, and alcoholic beverages actually speed up dehydration rather than slowing it down.
It is not normal to talk, and talk, and talk endlessly. Where there are natural places to pause or rest in your presentation, take them.
Rather than attempt to fill a large space by speaking loudly, be kinder to yourself and get wired up.
If you can, move away before you speak.
If you're a teacher or a trainer establish a 'hush' signal. Wait for silence, and then speak.
I know from experience constantly competing to win the right to be heard over any background noise will stress your voice, and your nerves.
If you do, and you do it without proper vocal training, you'll damage your vocal cords. Screaming, shouting or cheering excessively makes you hoarse!
Speaking either too high or too low for any length of time without training will cause damage. You'll feel the strain in your throat.
This too causes strain. You'll feel it in your chest.
A good solution is learn the art of pausing. Not only will you give yourself time to breathe properly, but you'll add a lot more expression and meaning to your words. I promise!
Constantly 'a-hemming' places an enormous stress on your vocal cords, as does excess laughing, coughing, or sneezing.
Going to work to talk all day, when you already ill (maybe from speaking too much), will compound your problems. Take the time to get well.
After an extensive review of freely available material on voice health, I've selected the four resource sites below. They are excellent starting points if you have ongoing concerns.
Work hoarse is an in-depth exploration of the voice health issues faced by those who depend on their voice for a living. It comes from the UK based health and safety Hazards Magazine whose journalists have won major awards in the UK and America.
You'll find check-lists, resources, references, discussions of work place risk factors and more. Although published in 2004, its content is ever-green; sound enduring commonsense.
The Voice Academy is devoted entirely to teaching teachers about caring for their voices.
If you're not a teacher, don't let that put you off!
This is treasure trove of information applicable to all using their voice in daily professional life.
The site is a authoritative collaborative response to voice problems from among others, the National Center for Voice and Speech and The University of Iowa.
As the Home Page says the 'Voice Academy' is:
'A no-cost, self-directed, virtual school built for the vocal health of U.S. teachers.'
Once you enter the site you'll find a well organized series of presentations covering all angles of voice health.
As their web site says:
"The British Voice Association (BVA) is the 'voice for voice' in the UK, an association of multi-disciplinary professionals who work to promote the field of voice in its broadest sense."
They offer a range of excellent free downloadable resources about a number of voice conditions and issues. Eg: Coping with colds, The voice and ageing, The voice clinic who's who, Muscle tension dysphonia and more.
Voice care for teachers - The UK based National Education Union has compiled a useful article to help teachers fully understand what they need to do to care for their voices.
As they say:
"The nature of the job, coupled with a frequent lack of voice training, means that teachers are at considerably greater risk than most other groups of employees of experiencing vocal problems at some point in their careers."