10 Everyday Things You Are Doing That Harm Your Vocal Health

Posted on Apr 19, 2018

As healthy individuals, we sometimes take physical well-being for granted. Little do we know that several not-so-smart habits contribute to problems to the health of our voice. We are aware of what alcohol does to our liver, or smoking to our lungs, but did you know that both these vices can also exhaust our voice box as well? Here are ten daily (or we hope not!) things we do that can harm our vocal health:

Misuse. How exactly do we misuse our voice? Speaking or singing in the extremes of your vocal range can strain the voice box or the vocal folds. Say you are an actor and taking a part of a Shakespearean character with a frighteningly low, booming voice; or you are attempting to reproduce Phantom of the Opera’s Christine’s soprano notes. Furthermore, talking too loudly or too softly (or whispering) are the other facets of vocal misuse, insomuch as excessive throat clearing and coughing, and exerting too much effort.

Overuse. Overuse occurs when we talk, sing, or use our voice for long periods of time. This entails vocal fatigue and may be accompanied by discomfort of the throat and hoarseness. Simply imagine, our vocal folds are muscles too, and like the muscles of the legs, after an entire afternoon of playing basketball, can tire out.

Too much alcohol intake. Alcohol, the perpetual risk factor for a myriad of diseases, is unsurprisingly on this list. Alcohol irritates the mucous membranes that line the muscles of our vocal box. It also dries out our vocal folds. 

Too much caffeine. Partaking of an excessive amount of coffee can also compromise the voice. We do know a lot of coffee lovers given our constant craving for stimulants to keep up with demanding school and career activities. However, coffee has a dehydrating effect on the body, causing our vocal folds to be depleted of water and moisture, and grate against each other as they try to vibrate and produce sound.

Excessive smoking. Similar to alcohol, we are bombarded with the many negative effects of smoking on our physicality. Even second-hand smoking is a culprit. As much as our vocal health is concerned, smoke is a foreign substance that irritates our vocal folds, and if worse comes to worst, laryngeal cancer might be inevitable. So think twice before puffing those cancer sticks!

Not addressing comorbid diseases and underlying conditions. Difficulty in generating voice and other issues such as hoarseness are usually symptoms of an underlying illness, the extent of which can go from common colds to laryngeal cancer! Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, brain injuries, and multiple sclerosis also weaken and paralyze the vocal muscles. Infections, allergies, and problems in the glands located in our neck and upper chest, as well as trauma, can interrupt voice production. Make sure to consult your doctor and follow recommendations and medications promptly.

Poor environmental factors. Low humidity, irritants, poor acoustic setup, and noise pollution are poor environmental factors. Dry climate such as winter can also take a toll on the moisture levels in our bodies. Examples of poor acoustic setup are huge halls or rooms where sound cannot be maximized, like wide gymnasiums and classrooms. Noisy places and events such as markets or concerts also leave us no choice but to boost our volume or shout. Irritants in the atmosphere can cause allergies and discomfort of the throat.    

Excessive mouthwash. “But mouthwash is designed for oral hygiene!” It may not be the same case with vocal health. Mouthwash contains a high percentage of alcohol could serve as an irritant to the voice box. If one suffers from chronic bad breath, he or she may resort to hyping up his or her mouthwash use which could do no good in the long run. Bad breath may also be a symptom of another issue that has to be medically addressed, such as infections.

Poor posture. This encompasses sedentary lifestyles. If you are living the “couch potato” life and exercise or physical activity is not your priority, you may be neglecting your posture, stamina, endurance, and muscle tone. Even singers, to tap the highest potential of their voices, have certain techniques on proper stance and bearing. Specific positions such as cradling the phone against the neck and the shoulder for a long time unnecessarily tense the vocal folds.

Poor breathing control. The air we breathe vibrates as the laryngeal folds open and close to produce sound. The laryngeal folds are also part of the passage of air that goes in and out of our body. If you rely on your voice box alone as the source of air or sound, then it will not have enough support. 

Some of these can be easily prevented by just making a few adjustments to our lifestyle. Who knows, in no time, by just avoiding these risks you might even discover that you have a gift for singing or public speaking!