Tips for maintaining your vocal health

As we move forward in the pandemic, what we all value the most is the connection. We find our days spent on Zoom, punctuated by moments when we manage to spend time with our friends and our family. Our mode of connection is most often through verbal communication. What happens, however, when we wake up to find that our voice is gone or our throats are too painful to speak much? We are losing part of that connection.

Our voices are constantly being used. At home or at work, we all tend to overuse our voices, but to maintain our best communication skills, we need to keep our voices healthy. There are ways to improve your basic voice so that you have enough vocal reserve to tolerate those two-hour Zoom meetings. Here are some tips from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) at New York Medical College (NYMC), which also provides voice services.

  1. Talk masked
    We are all aware that talking to someone while you are wearing a mask can be challenging. Often times, we try to speak louder than usual to get our point across, but it can damage our voice. You can achieve your communication goal by using a clear face mask or moving to a quieter location. Another option is to write the message. If it is impossible to avoid speaking louder, try to keep the duration of the discussion as short as possible.
  2. “Netiquette”
    You might find yourself speaking louder than usual when speaking into your microphone that exists on your well-placed, remotely mounted laptop. You could now force your voice. Relax with your voice and use headphones with a microphone.
  3. Take breaks / vocal rest
    Most of us have jobs and responsibilities that leave us with no choice but to talk all day. This is embarrassing, because the hoarseness will be hidden. Consider taking a lunch break (yes, a real lunch break) with at least ten minutes of silence. It can be difficult, but it is worth it for your voice. Your voice will be well preserved if you are disciplined about it.
  4. Avoid any additional tension
    Have you ever come back from a concert or a sporting event with a bad voice? The hoarseness you feel is exactly the kind of damage screaming does. Screaming and screaming can damage our vocal cords, so try to minimize them as much as possible. When you come home from a long day, don’t yell at your family to say hello. Walk into the room and use your normal voice, which will help save your voice in the morning. Avoiding other irritants like smoke, vapors, and other pollutants can also be beneficial.
  5. Drink water
    It should already be on your to-do list for a whole host of other reasons. Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy voice. Dehydration increases the risk of irritating our vocal cords and therefore damaging our voice. Continue to fill this water bottle throughout the day.

Your voice is important. If you prioritize her care, you may find yourself without a day with a “lost voice” or any discomfort at the end of the day. If you are having voice issues, be sure to follow these tips and see a speech therapist. Your voice will thank you.

The Department of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) at the School of Health Sciences and Practice (SHSP) at New York Medical College (NYMC) is a valuable resource to the Westchester County community through its academic and clinical programs. The NYMC speech therapy department is always ready and willing to serve the community. Call (914) 594-4912 to make an appointment.

Authors:

Barbara J. Leader, MA, CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor of Speech-Language Pathology
Vikas Grover, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor of Speech-Language Pathology
Sierra Zoll, Second Year Graduate Student, Department of Speech-Language Pathology

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About Hector Hedgepeth

Hector Hedgepeth

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