Protect Your Voice!

Are you in a profession where you are constantly using your voice?  Do you work in a loud environment that requires you to speak loudly or yell instructions? You may not realize it, but the resulting sore and raspy throats can add up to long-term damage to your voice.

You might say “I’m never going to sing on Broadway so what does it matter?” What matters is that you may have a career where you have to give presentations, or make sales calls all day. In this case, your voice may be as important as a singer’s when it comes to your paycheck, so you want to take good care of it.

Did you know the physical production of sound is the most rapid and complex of all muscular activities in our bodies? Constant vocal stress can lead to growths on the vocal cords called polyps or cause scar tissue to form. These can cause long-term damage to your natural speaking voice.

We all have a natural voice level that provides the most amount of sound with the least amount of effort. This level should be your habitual pitch level. If it isn’t, you may be damaging your voice. 

Avoid constant yelling and screaming. It’s the most common cause of vocal damage. Additionally, nervousness and tension can compound the problem. So remember, take it easy when you’re watching your favorite football team on Sunday. Be mindful of your voice during touchdowns and those nervous nail-biting moments.

Always remember: stay calm and quiet when you speak. 

“Hoarseness or laryngitis; a squeaky, breathy, or nasal voice; a voice that is too high or too low, too loud or too soft, or habitual breaks are all indications of vocal-cord abuse and can lead to more serious vocal injuries,” said Jeanine Diesso, supervisor, Adult Speech Rehabilitation at Staten Island University Hospital. 

Who needs vocal hygiene?  EVERYONE!  Vocal rest is probably the simplest and most effective way to minimize vocal stress, but here are some pointers:

  • Always speak in a moderate tone and volume, even in noisy situations.
  • Don’t make a habit of screaming or yelling. 
  • Don’t whisper.
  • Don’t clear your throat. It is equivalent to slamming the vocal cords together.  Instead, take a small sip of water or simply swallow.  
  • Drink the right fluids.  Water is the best choice for a healthy voice (6-8 glasses/day).  
  • Avoid or limit substances that can cause dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
  • If you smoke—STOP! Cigarettes are a major cause of cancer to the larynx. 
  • Try to avoid being directly under or in front of an air conditioner for long periods of time. Home heating units can also dry out the air and cause vocal strain.
  • If stress is hurting your vocal cords, a simple relaxing exercise is to yawn and then sigh.

If vocal problems are consistent in your life, consult your physician and make an appointment at the Department of Speech Rehabilitation Medicine at SIUH, 718-226-6521. 


Theodore Strange, MD, associate chairman of the Department Medicine and vice president of Medical Operations, SIUH South.

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