How to keep a healthy speaking voice

How to keep a healthy speaking voice

I love taking fitness classes. For some of these fitness classes, some of the instructors use a microphone and some don’t. Recently one of my yoga teachers started losing her voice. She teaches everyday to a class of about 30 to 50 people and she generally is talking over music. For the past couple weeks I could hear her voice starting to get tired.

You know your voice is tired when it starts to break up. Sometimes when you’re losing your voice, you’ll try to say a sentence and a few words will cut out or if you sounds will cut out. Your voice or throat might be tender or even hurt. These are all signs your body is giving you that it needs a rest and needs to produce sound a little differently under the current situation. This is very similar to singing for an hour and sometimes it can be more damaging than actually singing for an hour. And although it’s very similar to singing, many people who are singers don’t seem to use the same techniques for speaking as they do for singing.

So you may be like, okay….my voice is almost gone what do I do about it now.  If you lost your voice or have laryngitis because you screamed at a concert last night or were at a game cheering, just give your voice a few days rest, be EXTRA hydrated, and talk softly if you need to talk.

If this is an occupational hazard and it’s been coming on for a while, my guess is that you need to adjust the way you speak and become aware of your habits.

Quick Fixes:

1) Don’t talk louder than you have to.  Unless you are dealing with an older audience who potentially has some hearing loss, you are probably talking too loud.  Play around with talking quieter and envision talking just loud enough that farthest person can hear you.  No need to fill a room if the room isn’t full of people.

2) Turn the room noise or music down.  This is so common with gym/fitness instructors.  They crank up the music to add to the energy of the room, then they yell over the music.  There are a few options.  You can get a microphone.  You can also turn the volume down slightly when speaking, then turn it back up.   I’ve found that teachers tend to talk over students who are talking and it’s a competition of rising about the room noise.  A trick that one teacher used was to talk quieter when making announcements.  This worked pretty well for her because most of the students quieted down and the remaining louder students got the sense they were really loud in comparison and quieted down.

3) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate two hours before.  This trick has saved my voice when I’ve had to sing for 5 or 6 hours straight.  Your vocal cords need to be lubricated to work correctly.  I drink lots of water and tea with honey.  For me, honey does of great job of coating my vocal cords.  It seems to reduce friction.  Throat lozenges do the same thing in my opinion.  They won’t hydrate, but they will lubricate.

4) Sleep a lot.  When you sleep, you stop resistance and your body takes over. Your body is brilliant. It wants you healed as much as you want to heal.  Give it 9-10 hours of sleep.  If you don’t have that during, take a few naps.  If you can’t sleep that much, meditate.  When you meditate, try to just focus on breathing.  If your mind is still going a mile a minute, meditating won’t work like it can.

Long Term Fixes:

1) Raise your speaking voice in pitch. Think of your vocal range as yard stick from low to high.   Then, mentally look the bottom 6 inches of the yard stick.  This is the range where most people spend their time talking.  When singing, the lowest notes are generally softer because your vocal cords need to be relaxed to hit those pitches.  These are the same pitches that most people try to yell or speak loudly on.  If you raise you speaking voice a little bit, two things happen.  Sonically, higher pitches are easier to hear.  Have you ever noticed how when you hear a group of people sing, your ear gravitates to the soprano or highest pitches.  So when you raise the pitches you are speaking, you automatically seem louder.

2) Take bigger breaths.   Louder in volume equals more air used.  The louder you are, the more air you need.  That is true in singing and in talking/yelling.  If you aren’t taking deep breaths or enough breaths, the larynx may be raising to compensate for support and the throat tightening up.  When things tighten, the throat/vocal cords start getting tired, sore and then you lose your voice.

3) Relax your throat.  When we get excited and start talking louder, many times your body starts to tense up.  The shoulders, the neck, and the throat.  This is no good.  Imagine when you are speaking that your shoulders are relaxing down and throat widening.  Try moving your neck and or arms while speaking.  Do they move freely?

4) Support your sound.  This is a bit more advanced topic but if you sing and you can support, try doing the same when speaking.

Finally, if this has been happening for a long time and you think there might be some permanent damage or nodes.  The techniques above will not fix the issue.  See an ears, nose, and throat specialist.

Hope this helps!