Professionals relying heavily on voice should give vocal chords adequate rest

Though it is crucial for identification, voice is often neglected until it cracks, literally. But disregard for voice can spell the end of a career as some have discovered at their expense.

Various professionals like singers, teachers, lecturers, and customer care professionals, BPOs, politicians, lawyers and anchors rely heavily on their voice. Excessive voice usage by professionals heavily relying on voice can lead to various complications and even surgery if left untreated.

“Those who use their vocal chords at a stretch should ensure they get rest for minimum eight hours. Continuous usage of voice may lead to pain and change in voice. There is no expression of initial stages of voice strain till the voice begins to crack.

“The first person to know the change in voice is you,” says N.Jawahar, ENT surgeon, G.Viswanathan Specialty Hospital. “When the voice cracks it is a sign that vocal chords are crying for rest. But many overlook it.”

First signs

Initial indications of voice trouble include hoarseness in voice, heavy breathing, inability to talk or change in voice. “An sore throat may lead to hoarseness of voice. But if it continues for over two weeks, then it is wise not to ignore it,” says Ram Shankar, speech pathologist and head, department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, Holy Cross College.

A diagnosis by an ENT surgeon may be followed by assessment tests with speech pathologists. Voice exercises and tips for voice care are given to help recover the voice.

Continuous use of voice, raising voice frequently, talking loudly in noisy surroundings to ensure one is heard can add to strain on voice. A stroboscopy is initial assessment to detect vocal chords. Strain on voice may be reflected in swelling or change in pattern of opening or closing of chords or formation of nodules on the vocal chords. If ignored the tiny nodules may grow into polyps or swell in size and may require surgery, says Dr.Jawahar.

Women and voice

At the initial stage, absolute voice rest is recommended along with medication for five days. “There is nothing like resting the voice to protect the voice. If professional are required to use voice continuously throughout working hours, they must put it to minimum use at home.” In the case of working women, this is not an easy task as they teach children at home or are engaged someway or other, adds the doctor.

“What we advise them is to go to bed early and get minimum of eight hours of sleep and voice rest.”

Women are also prone to developing voice problems as they fail to keep the throat hydrated.

“Many women do not drink water as they worry about using toilets frequently, something which they do not want to do as hygiene of toilets is questionable. Water is necessary for lubrication of vocal chords and they must drink three to four litres of water every day.”

Drinking water is also an antidote to clearing throat frequently. “People clear their throat as they feel there is some foreign body in the throat. This may lead to swelling and damaging of vocal chords.”

Factors affecting voice

A number of external factors affect voice including obesity, heavy abdominal girth, acidity, surgery, inappropriate vocal training, fatigue, hypothyroidism, chest injury, smoking or substance abuse.

“Voice therapy also includes psychological counselling,” says Mr.Ram Shankar. “Very often stress affects voice that tends to crack under the weight of emotions or raising the voice in arguments. We counsel professional in coping with stress and dealing with difficult clients to preserve voice.”

Voice profiling or recording the fundamental frequency of voice is important for professionals heavily reliant on voice like classical singers. Improving quality of voice and reducing probability of voice disorders can be done by ensuring breaks of silence between talking, hydration, or drinking lukewarm water, and practising pranayam. A public address system in classes may bring in considerable relief for teachers.