Despite using our voice constantly, and often in unusual and athletic ways, we take it for granted. Here are some tips for looking after the two small vocal folds (‘vocal cords’) housed inside your larynx (voicebox).
The best thing you can do for your voice is drink water.
- The act of sipping regularly will reset the larynx, especially good if some tension has crept in; this is because the larynx lifts then falls each time we swallow.
- More importantly, drinking and sipping water frequently not only hydrates your whole body but also hydrates the mucous membrane which covers the whole of our vocal tract – mouth, throat, nasal passages and even the two vocal folds, helping to keep them cushioned as they move against each other to produce your voice.
- If this mucous membrane is hydrated then the lubrication it provides will be balanced; if you feel phlegmy, try to avoid clearing your throat and take a sip of water instead.
Warm up your voice
If you were going for a run you would warm up your muscles, the same applies to the muscles of voice and speech, especially if you about to be more gymnastic with them eg. before acting, singing or presenting. You can arrange a visit for a vocal ‘MOT’!
Try a steam inhalation
There are definite benefits of steam inhalations for the voice. The evaporating steam lubricates the mucous membrane which covers the whole of the vocal tract and the vocal cords. It relaxes the pharynx (back of throat) and larynx (voicebox), and gives you the sensation of the openness of your vocal tract.
- Fill a bowl with boiling water – no need to add anything (in fact some substances can be drying e.g. menthol)
- Sit at a table and lean over the bowl (towel over head: optional!)
- For the first few breaths, breathe in through your nose but as soon as you can, start breathing in through your open mouth.
- Your breath should be abdominal/central, as if you are breathing under the table (i.e. not shallow breathing – your shoulders shouldn’t be moving)
- Continue for 2-3 minutes.
Contraindications – avoid this if you have asthma, other bronchial conditions (e.g. COPD, bronchiectasis, chest infection/bronchitis), or you have had recent oral, nasal or vocal surgery.
Wear a scarf
If you are particularly worried that the cold gets to your throat, wear a scarf not just round your neck but also over your mouth.
Be aware of the environment you are in
Using your voice in large rooms/halls or in buildings with a notable amount of metal or glass will be challenging to your voice, as will using your voice outside.
You may find that dairy foods give you phlegm, avoid fried foods and even citrus fruits. Avoid eating too soon before going to bed. Listen to your body and if you’re concerned, keep a diary of what you eat and when you have reflux.
Stamina and fitness levels play a part in the balance of your immune system. Get a good night’s sleep!
Please get in touch with any concerns about your voice in winter – or during the rest of the year!