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Empowering Your Voice: Strategies for Vocal Health and Well-being

By Franca Locandro

Our voices allow us to express our thoughts, ideas, and emotions, facilitating effective communication with others. Whether through spoken language, vocal inflections, or other vocal cues, our voices convey meaning and enable interaction with the world around us. We’re able to convey or alter the meaning of the spoken word with the slightest change in pitch, volume or tone of our voice, enabling us to communicate warmth, empathy, authority, or other social signals that influence how others perceive and respond to us.

Our voices also contribute to our sense of personal identity and self-expression. Each individual has a unique voice that reflects their personality, background, and cultural influences. Our voices can convey aspects of our identity, including age, gender, ethnicity, and regional accent, shaping how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.

Research has shown that adults who experience vocal issues are more likely to experience decreased self-esteem and confidence, social withdrawal or social isolation, negative impacts on their employment and career opportunities, increased financial burden, emotional distress and anxiety, and a diminished overall quality of life.

Speech pathologists see a wide range of clients with voice-related concerns, including but not limited to, people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, LGBTQIA+ clients seeking transgender and identify affirming voice services, professional voice users such as teachers, singers, actors and public speakers, those who have had a stroke or traumatic brain injury, MND and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Strategies for keeping your voice healthy:

Hydration! – Drinking 2 litres of water every day is the easiest and most cost-effective way to look after your voice.

Have a rest – If you work in a high voice-use profession such as a teaching, customer service, sales, performing or public speaking, etc. try to have a period of vocal rest each day where you limit the amount of talking that you do.

Modify the environment – Try to limit the amount of time that you talk or yell over loud background noise such as loud music, machinery or within crowded areas.

The one no one likes – try to limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol to one-per-day. Caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating agents that leech healthy hydration from your system. The voice needs adequate amounts of hydration to work efficiently, so if you’re in a state of constant dehydration due to excessive coffee or alcohol intake, it’s going to have a toll on your voice.

Avoid excessive yelling, growling, screaming, or throat clearing – These are categorised as ‘vocally abusive behaviours’ and are some of the quickest ways to give yourself a voice disorder.

Key signs that you might need to see a speech pathologist about your voice:

  • Your voice is consistently hoarse or croaky sounding
  • You lose your voice often
  • You experience pain/tight throat during or just after speaking
  • You run out of air while speaking relatively short phrases
  • Your voice sounds soft and breathy, and you can’t seem to speak loudly no matter what you do
  • A ‘lump in the throat’ feeling and a persistent need to clear your throat
  • Speaking takes a lot of effort and your voice becomes fatigued easily
  • You’ve experienced a reduction in your ability to control the volume or pitch range of your voice

Our voices are amazing, multifaceted tools that enable communication, foster social connections, express personal identity, facilitate success, convey emotions, inspire creativity, and promote overall well-being. Recognising the importance of our voices is crucial not only for recognising the importance of maintaining good vocal health, but also good mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Remember that you’re not alone in dealing with voice difficulties. If you think you that you may require support, reaching out to a speech pathologist or your GP can be a good place to start.

About the author

Franca is a new graduate speech pathologist who began her career journey with KEO Care in November 2023. Before completing her masters of speech pathology, Franca worked as a music teacher and vocal coach for 15 years. As a speech pathologist, Franca’s areas of passion include supporting individuals with voice and swallowing disorders, expressive language impairment, as well as working within the neurodiversity affirming space.