Good voice care is key to keeping you singing. As with anything, there are dangers lurking about that will interfere with your vocal health and function. Many of these influences are within your control, but some may require medical intervention to treat. There are numerous things that can interfere with the efficiency and function of your vocal folds. Some interferences come from within, and some from without.
Here are some common influences that may cause problems for the voice and its function.
The general health of the singer
The common cold, a cough, flu and other infections such as in the sinuses, throat or ears.
Such as allergies, thyroid problems, gastric reflux, chronic fatigue, ME, neurological conditions e.g. Parkinson’s, respiratory conditions e.g. asthma or COPD, vocal pathology e.g. swollen vocal folds, polyps, nodules, Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction.
Your vocal folds need to be moist to do their job well. It takes several hours for anything you drink to reach a cellular level. Drink regularly throughout the day, enough to make your urine a pale straw colour. (Here’s a BBC documentary that covers hydration – how much and what, skip to 42:00). Drink more if you are exercising or in a very hot environment. Too much alcohol or caffeine and certain medications will contribute towards dehydration. Remember fruit and veggies contain water.
You know the saying “All choked up”…need I say more?
Poor vocal technique
Over the counter, prescribed or illicit. A hormonal pill e.g. the contraceptive may affect vocal fold thickness, asthma puffers, antihistamines, antiseptics may dry the vocal folds, some antidepressants and acne medications will affect the surface of the vocal fold. Medications that numb the throat and thin the blood e.g. aspirin should also be avoided. Smoking pot is 20 times worse than cigarettes on the vocal fold. Cocaine…think Whitney (RIP), Daniella Westbrook –need I say more? For prescribed medications discuss with your doctor before making any changes.
Air-con, extreme cold, extreme heat, dryness, dust, chemicals etc. All dry the vocal folds. High altitudes can swell the vocal folds, this includes when flying.
From a primary or secondary source. Dries vocal folds…not to mention other much nastier diseases such as cancer and emphysema!
Excessive talking and talking over loud noises
Gigs, parties, shouting at your favourite football team, working around loud machinery or in loud environments. This includes jobs that require a lot of talking e.g. teaching, call centre work.