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December 11, 2019

Taking Care of Your Voice

I recently had a call with Carlos Schults who will be giving an ASPE course on Git and GitHub I developed. We discussed how talking for an entire working day can be stressful on your voice. I recently experienced the same while recording a LinkedIn Learning course (more on that later). Luckily, my wife is a speech therapist and could provide me with some tips.

Disclaimer

Everyone usually skips the disclaimer, but this one is important. Not only am I not a speech therapist or anything else medical or paramedical.

There’s also the fact that these will be just things you can do to take care of your voice. They will not help you increase your voice strength. They will only help a small bit, for a small period of time.

But given that Carlos will be giving the course soon, there is no time to start intensive weekly therapy to improve his voice. I don’t suspect that is necessary, just keep in mind that if you’ve come here because you want to speak and have voice issues, you’re in the wrong place. It’s best to consult a speech therapist or a doctor.

Bad Voice Habits

Bad voice habits, or voice abuse, are things people do that are actually damaging to their voice or vocal chords. Things like:

  • coughing
  • whispering
  • yelling or screaming
  • growling
  • imitating sounds or voices

Some of these are things you should just try to avoid. But I can testify that the coughing is one you sometimes can’t suppress. When I was recording my course, my throat was itchy at the end of the third day. I kept feeling the need to cough, but it never helped.

In that case, swallowing or drinking a bit of water can help.

Stressing Your Voice

There are several ways to stress your voice, often because of professional situations:

  • talking too loud
  • talking with a tone that is too high
  • talking too fast
  • talking for a long period of time without a pause
  • working in rooms with air conditioning
  • talking in rooms with dry air
  • working in places with smoke or ethereal products

The solutions here vary.

If your voice needs to be heard, see if you can use a microphone or something to amplify your voice without having to raise your voice.

Others (like talking too fast or too high) need training and awareness.

If possible, take breaks when talking for extended periods of time.

In rooms with air conditioning, try to avoid it or at least drink enough water. In dry areas, see if the humidity can be adjusted by opening windows or using a humidifier.

And as for smoke and ethereal products, it’s best to avoid these.

Personal Habits

Speaking of smoke, I think you can expect smoking to be bad for your voice. Best to quit.

But these are also habits that are bad for your voice:

  • eating late (less than 2-3 hours before sleeping)
  • consuming alcohol
  • smoking (also passive smoking)
  • recreational drugs
  • soda
  • coffee
  • not sleeping enough

Why is eating late on the list? Because when you lie down while your stomach is still producing the acids to digest the food, some of this acid can flow to your esophagus, potentially irritating or damaging your vocal chords.

Alcohol, drugs and smoking are also bad for your vocal chords. But so is coffee. Decaf coffee should be OK because it’s the caffeine that dries out your vocal chords (so the same goes for tea with caffeine).

The best is to drink regular, uncarbonated water.

There’s More to It of Course

These are all just minor tips that will help your voice. But many of them can’t be done in just a few days. Many of them require changes in your daily habits before they really start to have an effect.

And to really improve your voice, you might need to see a professional. Because there are so many things that could help in your specific case. For example, there are good ways and bad ways to breath. The voice is a great but complex thing!

But if your voice is OK and you just want some tips to take care of it while you have some speaking engagement, the above can help. Take care to start changing your habits early, not the day before your engagement.

Good luck with your courses, sessions and other speaking activities!

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