Monday, April 02, 2012

Be Nice To Your Voice

For almost a decade back in the 90's, I was a partner in an assistive listening device business and so over the years I received more than my share of professional journals with information of both hearing and speech - subjects of no small interest to me as well, given my lifetime in radio.

In perusing one recently, the Journal of the American Speech/Language and Hearing Association, I found the following piece - reprinted (and adapted a bit) with their permission:

It's baseball season. The excitement of the game and the noise of the crowd make you use your voice at a higher pitch and louder level for a longer period of time than usual.

What you may not realize is that cheering play after play may be damaging your vocal chords.

Yelling at a ballgame is only one way to strain your voice. Singing at very high or very low pitches, smoking, talking in noisy environments, excessive coughing or throat-clearing, or talking excessively can abuse your vocal chords.

When you continue to talk after you have strained your voice, your vocal chord become more irritated. Your voice may sound hoarse or you may have laryngitis. This condition occurs when your vocal chords are so swollen and thick that they cannot produce sound.

Although laryngitis usually goes away after a day or two, you should not ignore the problem. Keep your vocal chords moist with drinks such as lemon, lime or cranberry juice. And try to keep quiet. Don't even whisper!

If resting your voice doesn't work, you may need voice therapy from a speech-language pathologist. In severe cases, you may need surgery.

To keep your voice in good shape for Little League and even World Series cheering later this year:
  • Avoid constant throat-clearing, coughing and loud talking.
  • Don't strain your voice by yelling or lowering the pitch of your voice too much. If you feel strain or tension in your throat, neck or shoulders, you're too loud.
  • Breathe correctly. Sit or stand up straight and breathe from your diaphragm as you speak. Place your hand on your abdomen just below your lungs and speak. You should be able to feel the vibrations if you are properly supporting your voice from your diaphragm. If you are cheering your favorite team, inhale deeply to fill the lower part of your lungs.
  • Go easy on your voice when you have a cold or sound hoarse.
  • Don't try to talk over the problem.
  • Rest your voice. Don't even whisper.
  • Drink lots of clear liquids when your throat is dry.
  • Don't irritate the vocal chords more by smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages.
For more information, contact Consumer Information Division, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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