Every year, April 16 is celebrated as World Voice Day to raise awareness about the importance of voice in people’s lives. Voice, in simple words, is a mode of communication through which we, as human beings, can express our emotions, thoughts, and intellect in spoken words. Dr Smita Nagaonkar, consultant and section co-ordinator, ENT, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre shares some of the issues that people need to keep in mind when it comes to the health of their voice.
How is voice produced?
The sound of your voice is produced by the vibration of the vocal folds, which are two bands of smooth muscle tissue that are positioned opposite each other in the voice box. When you are not speaking, the vocal folds are open so that you can breathe. When it’s time to speak, however, the brain orchestrates a series of events. The vocal folds snap together while air from the lungs blows past, making them vibrate. The vibrations produce sound waves that travel through the throat, nose, and mouth, which act as resonating cavities to modulate the sound. The quality of your voice—its pitch, volume, and tone—is determined by the size and shape of the vocal folds and the resonating cavities. This is why people’s voices sound so different.
When could you have a voice issue?
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may have a voice problem:
– Has your voice become hoarse or raspy?
– Have you lost your ability to hit some high notes when singing?
– Does your voice suddenly sound deeper?
– Does your throat often feel raw, achy, or strained?
– Has it become an effort to talk?
– Do you find yourself repeatedly clearing your throat?
Causes of voice problems vary from simple to complex medical conditions which can be treated with simple medications, speech and swallow therapy or surgical intervention, Dr Nagaonkar.
“We are dealing with patients coming from other specialities suffering from speech and swallow issues such as neurological diseases, post head and neck surgery, medical oncology, gastroenterology, and pulmonology. We are actively involved in FEES (Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing) which is a test done to do an evaluation of swallowing. This is followed by focused speech and swallow therapy. This has immensely helped in improving the quality of patient care,” Dr Nagaonkar added.
Here are few tips to take care of your voice
*Drink plenty of water, especially when exercising.
*If you drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol, balance your intake with plenty of water.
*Take vocal naps by giving rest to your voice.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet
*Don’t smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoke irritates the vocal folds. Also, cancer of the vocal folds is seen most often in individuals who smoke.
*Avoid eating spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or oesophagus, causing heartburn or GERD.
*Include plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C. They also help keep the mucus membranes that line the throat healthy.
*Wash your hands often to prevent getting a cold or the flu.
*Get enough rest. Physical fatigue has a negative effect on the voice.
*Exercise regularly. Exercise increases stamina and muscle tone. This helps provide good posture and breathing, which are necessary for proper speaking.
*If you have persistent heartburn or GERD, talk to your doctor about diet changes or medications that can help reduce flare-ups.
Use your voice wisely
*Try not to overuse your voice. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse or tired.
*Rest your voice when you are sick. Illness puts extra stress on your voice.
*Avoid using the extremes of your vocal range, such as screaming or whispering. Talking too loudly and too softly can both stress your voice.
*Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking. Support your voice with deep breaths from the chest, and don’t rely on your throat alone. Singers and speakers are often taught exercises that improve this kind of breath control. *Talking from the throat, without supporting breath, puts a great strain on the voice.
*Avoid talking in noisy places. Trying to talk above noise causes strain on the voice.
*People who suffer from voice and speech issues should consider voice therapy. With appropriate techniques taught by speech and swallow therapists, most of the problems can be resolved.