World Voice Day takes place on Sunday to celebrate the human voice and to raise awareness for voice disorders, vocal health, vocal training and voice research.
In the United States, 7.5 million people have trouble using their voices. We often forget the important role that voice plays in our daily lives. World Voice Day is a time to stop and consider the importance of the human voice in every part of our lives.
Voice adds intent, mood and meaning to the words we speak. Imagine the loss of not being able to express yourself through speech and song. Voice is created by vibration of the vocal folds, and a voice disorder occurs when the folds are unable to vibrate well enough to create a clear sound. A disorder may be caused by voice overuse or misuse, neck and throat injuries or growths, and diseases such as cancer or Parkinson’s Disease.
Most people have experienced temporary vocal problems, such as hoarseness or loss of voice caused by allergies, colds or even from cheering too enthusiastically at sporting events.
Usually, voice returns to normal within several days. However, if voice change lasts for longer than two weeks, the problem should be checked by a doctor. To keep your voice healthy, follow these recommendations.
Vocal health tips
Listen to how your voice sounds: Hoarseness or other voice changes lasting longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a voice-care team, such as an otolaryngologist and a speech-language pathologist who specializes in voice disorders.
Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your vocal folds and voice box well lubricated.
Quit smoking: Tobacco, nicotine, chemicals, inhaled heat and other substances can cause inflammation and swelling of the voice box and cause cancer in the mouth, nose, throat and lungs.
Avoid screaming, cheering loudly or talking over loud noise: These behaviors can damage the vocal fold tissue and strain the voice muscles.
Limit alcohol and caffeine: These substances have a drying effect on the vocal folds.
Avoid repeated throat clearing and/or coughing: These behaviors can cause vocal damage. Try sipping water and swallowing hard when you have the urge to cough or clear your throat.
Manage acid reflux: Stomach acid can damage the tissue of your throat and cause hoarseness and other vocal problems.
Give your voice a rest when recovering from hoarseness: When your vocal folds are swollen and inflamed, there is increased risk of vocal damage. Until your voice returns to normal, avoid straining or forcing your voice.
Give your voice a break: Vocal “naps” are good when your voice is tired from overuse or from talking too loudly.
You are never too young or too old to check your vocal health and make changes to improve or maintain your good voice habits. On Sunday, World Voice Day, take time today to celebrate your voice.
JoAnna Sloggy is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist at the University of Kentucky Voice and Swallow Clinic.