According to experts an estimate of about 7.5 million people have diseases or disorders of voice. Some of these disorders can however be avoided by taking care of your voice.
It is true that some professionals like broadcast journalists, teachers, trotro mates, singers, sales people, and other jobs that largely rely on their voice to perform duties are at a higher risk of developing voice problems.
So, how do you know when your voice is not healthy?
There are some simple ways to check if you have a voice problem:
- Does your throat often feel raw, achy, or strained?
- Do you have a hoarse or raspy voice?
- Does your voice suddenly sound deeper?
- Does it take some effort to talk?
- Does your throat hurt after a few minutes of talking?
- Do you find yourself repeatedly clearing your throat?
- Are you unable to hit some high notes when singing?
If answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you probably have done a poor job taking care of your voice. It might be time to consult a doctor to determine the underlying cause. An otolaryngologist, otherwise known as an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, can best diagnose a voice disorder.
There are several causes of voice problems including:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Vocal misuse and overuse
- Inflammation caused by gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD)
- Growths on the vocal folds
- Cancer of the larynx
- Neurological diseases
- Psychological trauma
Even though most voice problems can be reversed by treating the underlying cause or through a range of behavioural and surgical treatments it is a good idea to prevent them. A way to go is to stay hydrated, use your voice wisely and maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Drink plenty of water. Six to eight glasses a day is recommended.
- Try not to overuse your voice. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse or tired.
- Avoid cradling the phone when talking. Cradling the phone between the head and shoulder for extended periods of time can cause muscle tension in the neck.
- Avoid talking in noisy places. Trying to talk above noise causes strain on the voice.
- Limit your intake of drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine.
- Don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoke irritates the vocal folds
- Include plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet.
- Wash your hands often to prevent getting a cold or the flu.
- Get enough rest. Physical fatigue has a negative effect on 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.