Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Dos and Don'ts of Good Vocal Hygiene

Friends Don't Let Friends
Abuse Their Voices

A few years ago, when I was in college, I took a class on voice disorders.  Like most classes in LSU's Department of Communication Disorders, this class was made up of about 45 girls. Three times a week, we gathered for an hour to hear our professor, Dr. Hoffman, talk about the human voice.

I kind of hated that class. Here's why:

In the beginning, we looked at tons of pictures of vocal cords. This is what normal vocal cords look like.  I was shocked! Even after all of these years,  I still think they're pretty creepy.  

Once we mastered the basics of vocal fold anatomy in pictures, we watched hours of videos of vocal cords in vibration. If you have two minutes, watch the entire video, or if you just want to see the good stuff, skip the first 33 seconds and get straight to the action. 

 I don't know about you, but a little bit of that goes a long way for me.

Eventually, we learned that  things can get ugly and weird when gross stuff starts to grow on your vocal folds. This could happen to you if you don't use your voice the right way. 

Creepy, ugly, weird and gross... I rest my case.

To make sure this never happens to you, it's important to take care of your voice by using good vocal hygiene.  Here are 22 tips for keeping your voice healthy. 

The Dos and Don'ts 
Good Vocal Hygiene

  • drink plenty of water- this keeps your vocal cords hydrated and working smoothly
  • eliminate or reduce smoking- inhalation of these chemicals is irritating to the throat
  • eliminate or reduce alcohol- it increases stomach acid production and causes reflux
  • eliminate or reduce caffeine- it dehydrates and causes reflux 
  • control vocal loudness- speak at a comfortable volume, move closer to your listener if you need to be louder
  • monitor vocal use- talking or singing for extended periods is abusive and causes damage
  • take a break- give your voice time to rest after extended periods of use
  • humidify the environment- adding moisture in the air is a good thing
  • turn off ceiling fans at night- the continuous circulation of air can be drying during sleep
  • speak at a comfortable pitch- a pitch that is too high or too low causes vocal strain...and sounds funny
  • reduce excessive  talking- nonessential talking causes extra wear and tear on your voice
  • use a microphone when addressing a large group- you can maintain a normal volume this way
  • take it easy- there shouldn't be any strain or effort in the neck while speaking
  • use a voice that is optimal for you- a speech pathologist can help you determine exactly that that sounds like


  • cough or clear your throat in a frequent or habitual way- it's annoying, and if you do it too often, it causes damage to your vocal cords
  • scream or yell- these are the most common causes of vocal abuse
  • whisper- it's more abusive to your voice than screaming or yelling
  • yell to get someone's attention- go to them instead, face to face communication is always best
  • talk over the noise in a loud place- turn down the volume or leave if you have to
  • breathe through your mouth- air cannot be warmed or filtered if it goes straight to your throat
  • make funny noises or use funny voices- they often require unusual use of pitch and volume  
  • use products or take medicine that dry the mouth or throat- some mouthwashes, decongestants and allergy medications can release fluids from body tissues, including the vocal cords; a dry mouth and throat are not only uncomfortable, they can cause voice problems

These suggestions are meant to guide you in taking care of your voice. If used consistently, they may even prevent voice problems. Following these good vocal hygiene practices will make you feel better and sound better too!

If you or someone you know has or suspects a voice disorder, talk to your doctor. A referral to a speech pathologist may be just what you need. 

The human voice is the organ of the soul.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow