Effective verbal communication depends not only on what we say, but also on how we sound. Our voice is what connects us and defines us as human beings.
World Voice Day (tomorrow, April 16) recognizes the value and significance of vocal health in everyday life. Between three and 10 percent of people in the United States experience voice problems of some kind.
To keep you speaking clearly, the Voice and Swallowing Disorders Center at Swedish recommends following these tips:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages cause increased urination. This loss of fluids dries out the voice. Alcohol also irritates the mucous membranes that line the throat.
- Don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Cancer of the vocal folds is seen most often in individuals who smoke.
- Avoid eating spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus.
- Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These foods contain vitamins A, E and C. They also help keep the mucus membranes that line the throat healthy.
It’s not just what you eat or drink that affects your voice – what you do makes a difference:
- Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking. Support your voice with deep breaths from the diaphragm, the wall that separates your chest and abdomen. Talking from the throat, without supporting breath, puts a great strain on the voice.
- Use a humidifier in your home. This is especially important in winter or in dry climates. Thirty percent humidity is recommended.
- Do not cradle the phone when talking. Cradling the phone between the head and shoulder for extended periods of time can cause muscle tension in the neck.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise increases stamina and muscle tone. This helps provide good posture and breathing, which are necessary for proper speaking.
- Get enough rest. Physical fatigue has a negative effect on voice.
- Avoid talking in noisy places. Trying to talk above noise causes strain on the voice.
- Avoid mouthwash or gargles that contain alcohol or irritating chemicals. If you still wish to use a mouthwash that contains alcohol, limit your use to rinsing, not gargling. If gargling is necessary, use a salt water solution.