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Tip of the Week: Tips for Maintaining Your Vocal Health

SLP student Sierra Zoll, SLP Class of 2022, and Barbara J. Leader, M.A., CCC-SLP, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, provides valuable tips.

November 22, 2021
Vocal Health

Tips for maintaining your vocal health

As we push forward through the pandemic, what we all value most is connection. We find our days spent on Zoom, punctuated by moments when we get to spend time with our friends and family. Our way of connection is most often through verbal communication. What happens, though, when we wake up to find our voice is gone or our throats are too sore to talk much? We lose some of that connection.

Our voices are constantly being put to work. As educators, students, interns, staff, we all tend to overuse our voice, but to maintain our best means of communication, we need to keep our voice healthy. There are ways to improve your baseline voice, so you have enough vocal reserve to tolerate those two-hour zoom meetings. Here are some tips from the New York Medical College (NYMC) Department of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), which provides voice services as well.

  1. Speaking when masked
    • We are all aware that talking to someone while you’re wearing a mask can pose some challenges. Often, we try to speak louder than usual to get our message across, but this can damage our voice. You can achieve your communicative end by using a clear-face mask or by moving to a quieter area. Another option could be writing down the message. If speaking louder cannot be avoided, try to keep the duration of the discussion as short as possible.
  2. “Netiquette”
    • You might find yourself speaking louder than usual when you’re speaking into your microphone that exists on your well-placed laptop mounted at a distance. You might be now straining your voice. Take it easy on your voice and use a headset with a microphone.
  3. Take some speaking breaks/vocal rest 
    • Most of us have jobs and responsibilities that leave us with no option but to speak all day long. This is troublesome, as hoarseness will be lurking. Consider taking a lunch break (yes, a real lunch break) that has at least ten minutes of not speaking. It can be tough, but worth it for your voice. We encourage you to schedule your vocal rest, especially on high-teaching days. Your voice will be well preserved, if you’re disciplined about it.
  4. Avoiding further strain
    • Have you ever come home from a concert or a sports event with a voice that is in rough shape? The hoarseness you experience is exactly the kind of damage that yelling does. Screaming and yelling can cause damage to our vocal folds, so try to minimize it as much as possible. When you come home from a long day, don’t yell up to your family to greet them. Walk in the room and use your normal voice, which will help save your voice in the morning. Avoiding other irritants like smoke, vapes, and other pollutants can be beneficial as well.
  5. Drink water
    • This should already be on your to-do list for a 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 thus, damaging our voice. Keep filling up that water bottle throughout the day.

Your voice is important. If you prioritize its care, you can find yourself without any days with a “lost voice” or any discomfort at the end of the day. If you do find yourself with some voice problems, take extra care to follow these tips and talk to a speech-language pathologist. Your voice will thank you.