As speech pathologists, we specialise in supporting effective communication across a range of areas, including voice. It is not often that we think about our voice, but when we do, it is generally because we have noticed a change in the quality of our voice or have lost our voice completely. These changes can result from overusing our voice due to a high vocal load (e.g. a teacher or a singer), misusing our voice (e.g. yelling, not giving our voice rest) or being exposed to other behavioural or environmental factors.
Voice changes can be prevented through an awareness of voice health and adoption of good voice habits to promote efficient voice production and overall vocal health. Evidence suggests providing education around the voice, specifically, vocal hygiene information can have a positive effect for people experiencing voice problems (Pemberton, 2013).
What is vocal hygiene?
Vocal hygiene is a daily regime that can be implemented into day-to-day tasks and lifestyle activities.
What is the purpose of vocal hygiene?
The purpose of vocal hygiene is to eliminate inappropriate vocal habits and situations that place unnecessary wear and tear on the voice. Vocal hygiene strategies promote a strong and healthy voice, as well as common sense behaviours that contribute to efficient voice production.
Signs and symptoms indicating you may be experiencing a voice problem:
- Frequent throat clearing
- Persistent or recurrent changes in vocal quality: rough, breathy or hoarse sounding voice
- Frequent voice loss
- Discomfort or persistent tickling in your throat
- Feeling of a lump or something stuck in your throat
- Sudden, unintentional rise or drop in voice pitch
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
Vocal hygiene strategies:
- Maintain adequate daily hydration. Drink the recommended daily water intake (at least 2-4 Litres per day). Have a water bottle with you at work and ensure you have water pre and post long speaking periods. Maintaining hydration is critical even if you’re not feeling thirsty
- Cut back or avoid large amounts of caffeine and alcohol as this can cause dehydration to the entire body and to your vocal folds. You can try to substitute caffeinated drinks with water, herbal tea or lemon juice
- Try to avoid dry or cool aired environments such as air-conditioned rooms or environments with irritants (e.g. smoke filled rooms, dusty areas, polluted air)
- Loud voice use can be damaging and cause injury to your voice. Monitor your vocal loudness in different environments and try not to talk louder then necessary or over background noise
- Microphones or speakers could be used to project your voice and minimise the amount of effort required
- Avoid shouting and yelling. Use alternatives such as whistling or waving to gain attention or walk over to the person who you wish to speak with
- Having periods of voice rest (no talking) throughout the day.
- Take breaks from continuous talking if possible
- During breaks at work, avoid long conversations and rest your voice
- Schedule periods of voice rest when you know you are going to be busy and speaking more
- Avoid throat clearing and harsh coughing. If you need to clear your throat, do it gently. Try sips of water or a dry swallow instead.
- Avoid smoking
- Keep your voice and body well by eating and exercising regularly
- Work out mindfully what makes your voice feel tired or strained
- Release body tension: have a bath, do yoga or meditation
- Implement stress management techniques. Seek counselling if needed
- If you use your voice professionally, always warm up and cool down your voice with appropriate voice exercises
If you have further questions or would like more information regarding how to appropriately care for your voice, please contact us on (02) 4862 5063 to book an appointment with one of our certified practising Speech Pathologists.
Pemberton, C. (2013) Voice Injury in Teachers. Voice Care Prevention Programmes to Minimise Occupational Risk. Voice Care Australia, Accessed on 28/03/2021.