Today is a day to celebrate voices. Each year since 2002, World Voice Day (WVD) has been internationally recognized on April 16. This year’s theme, “Voice: The Original Social Media,” illustrates how we use our voice every day to communicate, interact and express ourselves. It’s easy to take your voice for granted – but when it isn’t working like it should, its importance becomes quickly evident.
My job is to evaluate and treat children and adults with a range of vocal challenges. I help people who have everything from dysphonic (hoarse) voices to extraordinary voices. My unique skill set as a PhD voice pathologist and professional performer with a musical theatre education provides the basis for bridging the gap between art and science of the voice.
As a private practice voice clinician and researcher at The Professional Voice Center of Greater Cincinnati, I was honored to recently join a team of researchers at the Center for Pediatric Voice Disorders to work on a collaborative, multi-year study between Cincinnati Children’s and the Cincinnati Boychoir. Although still in its initial stages, the study is allowing us take a scientific look at young, healthy boys’ voices and how they develop through puberty.
This study of voices will be beneficial to us as we seek to understand as much as possible about voices so that knowledge can be used to better help individuals who do not have healthy voices.
As WVD is designed to show us, maintaining a healthy voice is important for everyone no matter what you do or what stage of life you’re in, so follow these tips to help keep your voice in its best condition:
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. This helps the natural mucus your body creates act like lubricant for your vocal folds.
- Be conscious of your diet – avoid spicy or acidic foods that may give you acid reflux, heartburn or an upset stomach. These can lead to damage to your vocal folds.
- Avoid yelling, screaming and abusing or overusing your voice.
- Warm up your voice before heavy use and allow time to give your voice a break, especially if you’re using it a lot (i.e. teachers, cheerleaders, performers, and fans at sporting events).
- Consider using a humidifier at home if the air in your home is especially dry as it provides added moisture to the air you breathe.
- Don’t smoke; avoid areas where secondhand smoke is prevalent.
- If you’re experiencing differences or changes in your voice (because of puberty, overuse or injury), don’t overcompensate or try to imitate a “normal” sounding voice. You will likely do more damage than good.
- Minimize throat clearing; it can cause injury by harshly banging the vocal folds together.
- If you do have a sore or scratchy throat, try resting your voice or seeking medical attention if it does not resolve within a few days.
- Seek professional help if you have concerns. Voice specialists and pathologists are available to work through issues with you or your child in one-on-one therapy sessions. With questions, parents can call the Center for Pediatric Voice Disorders at 513-636-0336.
Voice is very much a part of your identity and I believe strongly that it is an asset that is worth protecting. And it’s even more important if your voice is part of your career or your passion. If you have a performer in the family, be sure to check out my five tips for vocalists from World Voice Day 2014.
I hope you’ll take time today to have a glass of water and take a moment to appreciate your voice in honor of WVD.