Vocal Hygiene

Voice Care is for Everybody!

Voice is a part of their profession for many. It is an integral part of their personality for most. It is what makes us able to communicate and share emotions, thoughts, needs and information. In summary, voice is an important aspect of ‘you’ and thus, it has to be taken care of!

As healthcare professionals, we come across a variety of pathological conditions that affect the voice. These pathological conditions can cause several voice changes that need treatment by a professional (Read- Voice Disorders to know more). These conditions are sometimes the result of certain vocal habits adopted by the individuals. A little care for the vocal health can go a long way. Here are a few easy things that you can do (vocal hygiene).

Hydration

Keeping vocal folds moist warrants good vocal health. Hydration should happen both internally and externally. The vocal folds is covered by a thin layer of mucus. This helps in avoiding the friction in the vocal fold edges during voice production. Lack of hydration dries up this mucus, which in turn, increases the friction between vocal folds during voice production. It leads to damage of the delicate tissues in your voice box.

Drinking plenty of water will help the mucus levels be maintained. Caffeine and alcohol should be cut down or avoided to prevent the loss of hydration in the body. External moisture can be achieved through steam inhalation. People living in cold environments may be advised to use room humidifier. Additionally, foods like cucumber, grapes and other vegetable and fruits rich in water content should be part of your regular diet.

Vocal Misuse/ Overuse

Vocal folds are made of layers of delicate tissues. A misuse of the vocal mechanism can lead to voice changes. Yelling, screaming, throat clearing, frequent strained cough, loud talking, or singing without a proper warm-up can be categorized as vocal misuse or abuse. During such activities, the vocal folds come together in a hard and forceful way. It can cause injury or lesions in the form of bumps or calluses on the vocal fold edges. In extreme cases, it causes vocal hemorrhaging.

Such risk can be avoided when you are mindful about the loudness levels and eliminate yelling/ screaming. Treat cold & cough instantly with medical advice. Drink plenty of water, at least 8 glasses a day. Steam inhalation can be incorporated into the daily routine for individuals with prolonged voice usage. Professional voice users should maintain proper techniques while using their voice. The role of warm-up for these professionals should not be overlooked.

Acid Reflux

It is a symptom of a digestive system disorder. The bile or stomach acid backs up into the esophagus (food pipe) and irritates the tissues. This sometimes spills over into larynx, leading to an effect on voice as well. It is a chronic disease that may cause heartburns. In some individuals, ‘silent reflux’ may occur without causing obvious heartburn symptoms. People who experience this more than twice a week might have developed gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).

Such people should immediately seek medical advice for appropriate treatment. Over the counter medication can provide only temporary relief.

Sleep, Anxiety and Stress

Sleep helps the body to relax and repair itself. All body organs including the heart, blood vessel, nerves and tissues rejuvenate during sleep. It also helps in releasing the hormones necessary for boosting muscle mass and cell repair. Like every other system, absence of sleep or poor sleep patterns lead to an increased risk of anxiety/ stress. This also affects voice by making the muscles in the larynx tense and eventually, in-coordination of the vocal control mechanism. People who are exhausted due to lack of sleep also experience respiratory distress during voice production.

To overcome these issues, sleeping without interruption for at least 8 hours per day is recommended. People experiencing extreme anxiety should get professional advice to maintain overall health. Work-life balance and relaxing activities should be part of your regimen for a happy life.

Pollution

It is a global issue that impacts the overall health of every individual. With respect to voice, inhalation of toxic substances can cause a direct or indirect laryngeal injury. It can be due to a pulmonary dysfunction (respiratory distress) or due to tissue alteration of the vocal tract.

Simple things like covering your nose and mouth while going out can help. Avoid direct contact with dust and dirt by using protective gears.

It does not take much to take care of yourself. Stay healthy and live happy!

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