Solving 4 Major Problems That Affect Your Voice
By Joni Wilson: Voice Expert/Best-selling Author/Voice Coach
Here Are 4 Major Voice Problems Speakers and Singers Face Daily and HowTo Effectively Manage Them.
1.) Head Colds and Sinus Infections: (“That darn kid on the plane just kept sneezing all over me, what can I do?”)
Water magnifies sound, and that’s a good thing. So when my clients have a major presentation and a head cold at the same time, I tell them to enjoy the resonant sound and stop worrying. The voice is produced in the vocal cords down in the larynx, (Adam’s-apple) neck area. Nasal congestion is produced in the nose and sinus area. These two are not even close to each other. The major concern here is to be aware of the medications you are taking. If it dries up your mucous (as decongestants do), it will also dry up your vocal cords because they are mucous membranes and need that mucous to keep them lubricated. Steaming the mucous membranes of the nose and throat with a few drops of added eucalyptus oil (any health food store has it,) will work wonders to add needed moisture. If you don’t have a steamer, simply boil a pan of water on the stove, drop in a few drops of the oil, place a towel over your head and breathe in the healing steam all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. If you are in a hotel room, take a hot steamy shower and with your mouth wide open, breath that steam in and out of your lungs. DO NOT TAKE ANY DROPS OR MEDICATION CONTAINING MENTHOL. They will shrink and dry out your vocal cords. Old-fashioned lemon drops are the perfect pastilles for adding lubrication.
2.) Heartburn and Stomach Acid (“It must have been that chicken surprise I ate.”)
Stomach acid can move from the stomach up to the larynx and irritate and burn your vocal cords, affecting your voice big time. Acid reflux is common in those who have stomach problems and has been blamed by many a singer for the lack of a voice. First, do not eat before a performance or presentation—that is a no-brainer. Second, never swallow anything with caffeine, alcohol or citric acid in it eight hours before you speak or sing. That means coffee, most soft drinks, orange juice and caffeinated teas. Warm herbal teas are good and soothing to the tummy and the voice. Second, stomach acid can also be a stress related problem. Stage fright, performance anxiety, toxic relationships, and a lack of self-confidence before a performance can also churn up those butterflies in the tummy. That fight or flight adrenalin rush, if allowed to run wild, will also turn on the stomach-acid spigot. (For great tips on handling Stage fright read; “How to Tame the Stage Fright Monster.”)
3.) Chronic Throat Clearing (“If I could just clear this gunk out.…”)
This is a very common problem for speakers, singers, teachers, lawyers, and people who over-use their voices in their jobs. We have all sat in an audience listening to a speaker/teacher who constantly clears his/her throat. This not only irritates the audience but it is extremely irritating to the vocal cords. (This is sometimes a chronic nervous habit carried over from puberty.) Remember, the mucous that coats the vocal cords is there to protect them and when you continually scrape out the mucous to clear the throat, the body’s defense system calls up the “Mucous Army”. The more mucous you scrap out, the more mucous the vocal cords produce to protect themselves from all that clearing going on When the Mucous Army begins to resemble the National Guard, it’s time to stop all that destructive clearing and try another tactic.
Also dropping the jaw in a relaxed “yawn” position will help relieve pressure in the vocal cord area. While in that yawn position say; “Haaaaahhhhh” sliding down your pitch from highest to lowest. This is called a “yawn sigh” and it’s a great tension reliever as well as a tool to help your vocal cords re– affirm their relaxed position so they can get back to their “real” job of creating sound.
4.) The PMS Blues (“PMS also affects my voice? You are kidding me.”)
Obviously this one only affects the ladies, but it’s a real problem for women who depend on a strong voice for business. It is not an imagined problem, guys! It’s so real that it is even written in the opera diva’s contract that she will not perform while PMS-ing. It is tastefully called “Grace Days”. This monthly vocal problem is caused by a woman’s hormone levels getting out of balance during those PMS days and not only effecting her emotions but also changing the natural size and texture of her vocal cords. This causes a deepening in the voice and a loss of high notes. For the female speaker/singer the symptoms are: vocal fatigue, hoarseness and some muffling of the voice. What to do, what to do? Simply understanding that this annoyance is merely a part of being female, helps a woman handle it. Like the Opera Diva, if you can, schedule your major presentations around your personal “Grace Days”, do it!