May 282013

“I lose my voice whenever I give a presentation.”

“My voice gets hoarse by the end of the day.”

“My throat feels dry all the time.”

These are just a few of the concerns I hear as a speech pathologist who treats voice problems.  Always implied in the comment is the question, “Why?”

In the absence of serious medical issues like vocal nodules and polyps, or side effects of medication, the most common reason for problems of hoarseness, loss of voice and dry throat comes from how we care for our voice.  Do you have to do something special to conserve your voice?  Well, consider this:

Infants cry reflexively to express upset and need from the time they’re born.  Once children learn they can use their voice to ask for what they want — and receive it — speaking becomes a natural activity.

As adults, most people speak for many hours in total every day, expecting their voice to be the means to socialize, give information, sing, and many other functions of daily life.

But how many of us make an effort to use our voice in a careful way, to conserve our voice for all the demands we place on this relatively small, delicate structure in our throat?

Using one’s voice improperly is one of the major reasons many people need to consult an ENT doctor (ear, nose and throat) and frequently a speech pathologist.

Ask yourself some questions about your habitual voice use:

Do I drink enough during the day — water and non-caffeinated beverages, in particular?

Do I breathe properly when I speak? (see my previous blog article, “The Two P’s)

Do I speak too loudly and strain my voice by speaking over noise or shouting (at a sports event, for example)?

These are a few of the questions I ask people who come to see me with complaints about chronic hoarseness, loss of voice, dry throat and other related problems.  These difficulties usually stem from the way we speak all day, every day.  Learning to conserve your voice will give you the healthy, strong speaking instrument everyone expects and certainly takes for granted from their early years through adulthood.


Check back next week for more thoughts on communications and speech.