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Health & Wellness

How To Avoid Vocal Strain


Speak too long or too loud and you can end up hoarse or worse if you don’t learn to use your larynx correctly. It's the sound source for the human voice, and it regulates breathing and swallowing. 

Dr. Ted Mau, a laryngologist with Parkland Hospital System and Director of the Voice Center at U-T Southwestern Medical Center, talks about the larynx and avoiding vocal strain.

Highlights from Dr. Mau’s Interview:

Right and wrong ways to use the larynx: “We prefer to think of it as if you’re using your voice efficiently, then you can be talking for hours on end without hurting yourself. Inefficiently, you can be at higher risk for injury, especially using the voice in a loud environment.”

Efficient way in a noisy environment: “You want to make sure you’re using proper breath support to propel the voice because the voice doesn’t just come from the voice box. The voice box is powered by air flow from the lungs. You really want to have a good connection between the breathing and voice production to really have an efficient voice that can sustain. When you start to feel soreness or even pain in the neck after prolonged talking, that’s an indicator your speaking style is not as efficient as it could be, and this is where working with a voice therapist will come in handy to optimize the vocal mechanism.”

Steps you can take on your own: “If you’re in a job where you have to talk all day long – for example, on the phone or in a classroom – just take a breath after every sentence. That renews the air in your lungs and you have a fresh tank of air to power your next sentence.”

What to do if you become hoarse: “The first thing to do is to recognize that you’re straining. If you start to feel soreness after prolonged talking or singing, stop. Don’t push it. Take a break. Often that’s enough. But if this becomes a persistent problem, then you need to get some help from providers who specialize in voice problems.

Tips to prepare for prolonged talking: “Stay well-hydrated. Your vocal folds (cords) will be well-hydrated and they can vibrate with greater ease. Stay away from things that dehydrate, such caffeine or alcohol. There are also medications that tend to dry people out, like diuretics and common-use antihistamines. Make sure you’re well-rested overall.”

Vocal Straw Exercise

For more information:

National Institutes of Health: Taking Care of Your Voice