It’s common to experience a voice problem like hoarseness at one point or another—such as after experiencing a bad cold or after a long karaoke session. These conditions can temporarily damage the vocal folds, but fast recovery is possible even with little self-care. However, if you are someone who makes great demands on your voice for an extended period, a voice problem more than hoarseness can occur and persist.

Who are at-risk for voice problems?

Professional and occupational voice users, for whom spoken communication is essential in their line of work, are the most at-risk for developing a voice problem. These individuals include – but are not limited to – singers, teachers, call center agents, salespeople, and public speakers who use their voices so much during workdays to get their service across.

While professional and occupational voice users are the most at-risk for voice problems, they are also the ones who can’t afford to lose their voice. Even a minimal voice problem could greatly affect both their personal and professional life.

For a call center agent, a hoarse voice could lead to fewer calls made per hour or more breaks away from the phone. Not to mention the possibility of needing to repeat yourself with the customer because you are hardly understandable. For a professional in sales, a hoarse and unpleasing voice can make a negative impression and can detract from building credibility and trust with potential clients.

Overall, not only a voice problem will cause discomfort, but it can also negatively impact efficiency and performance at work.

Tips to take care of your voice

Whether you are an occupational voice user or a business professional who constantly delivers presentations in a day, having a healthy and pleasing voice is nothing short of necessary. Below are just some of the tips that you can follow to give your vocal folds special care and prevent voice problems.

1. Give your voice a rest

It is essential that your voice have opportunities to rest, recover, and relax. Even short periods of rest could do wonders for your voice health.

When you are on a long call, for instance, you can give your vocal folds a chance to have a “microbreak” from vibrating by simply pausing between sentences. In addition, allow the other person on the line to talk as well without you interrupting; this would give you a longer break from talking while listening to the other person. During presentations, have a dialogue rather than a monologue with the audience, if time would allow. The several exchanges during the presentation can be a good opportunity to briefly rest your voice while the other person is talking.

Between calls or presentations, switch to a work task that doesn’t require talking, such as attending to emails or doing written reports. Make sure to also grab the opportunity to rest your voice by not talking too much during your regular shift breaks.

Finally, the time after work is the best time for your voice to recover. As much as possible, limit use of your voice after work, especially if your voice is tired after a long day’s work.

2. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration helps lubricate the vocal folds. A well-lubricated vocal fold is protected against possible tissue damage that may result from the constant vibrations whenever we speak.

To ensure proper hydration, always have a liquid to drink, preferably plain water, within your reach while you are working. You can also have foods that have a lot of water in them such as cucumbers, melon, grapes, and gelatin.

Improving the humidity of your environment can also help in hydrating your vocal folds. Consider using a humidifier in your home or office especially during dry weather.

3. Avoid habits that cause dryness and irritation to vocal folds

Certain foods and habits hurt the vocal folds by causing dryness or irritation. To avoid these negative effects on your vocal folds, limit intake of caffeine and alcohol. If you ever have to drink these beverages, balance your intake with plenty of water. Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke as well because they are equally drying and irritating to the vocal folds.

Many medications, such as cold and allergy medications, can also dry out your vocal folds, so drink more water to make up for their drying effect. If you have an existing voice problem, ask your doctor which medications would be safest for you to use.

4. Minimize throat clearing

Throat clearing is something that everyone does in an attempt to clear out mucus. This usually happens when you are not properly hydrated because the mucus becomes thick. However, constantly doing it can be traumatic to the vocal folds and can contribute to a vocal injury.

If you do have to clear your throat, do it gently. Proper hydration could also help because if you are well-hydrated, the mucus that is lining your vocal folds becomes thin and watery.

5. Warm-up your voice

Warming up your voice before extensive use is a crucial component of voice use. This is as important as warming up your muscles before an intense exercise. Try to do a simple humming to bring the voice forward and prepare for a lengthy conversation or presentation.

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