Voice Care
February 10, 2005 4:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm in a profession where I am often speaking loudly *all* day, are there any good remedies for taking care of my throat/voice? I've found lots of tips on the web but am having a hard time distinguishing the worthwhile from the useless.
posted by jeremias to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
When I was browsing the lists of backstage requirements of famous touring musicians, I noticed that nearly all the vocalists wanted some sort of tea called 'Throat Coat' available. I can only assume that it must be pretty good stuff.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:35 AM on February 10, 2005

I can't vouch for Throat Coat at all, but here it is...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:14 AM on February 10, 2005

I don't know about Throat Coat specifically, but it rings true because tea is definitely good for the voice, and I find that green tea works best for me in keeping a strong voice. Try sipping green tea instead of coffee at work.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:52 AM on February 10, 2005

I work in a "loud" talking profession all day, and I used to work in a live performance theatre - I can vouch personally for Throat Coats effectiveness. I also drink warm water all day. That seems to soothe my throat. Also - no smoking - no smoke filled bars - and no yelling. If I were to lose my voice I couldn't work - so I try to be very careful.
posted by eggerspretty at 7:29 AM on February 10, 2005

yes, coming from theatre, this is what I do. Warmup exercises for my voice. Some that stretch my mouth so I can annunciate more and others that target my diaphragm. If you know where your diaphragm is and you use it, you shouldn't worry too much about your throat at all.

But drinking warm tea, and i've also heard that ginger works wonders, will help keep your throat comfortable.
posted by freudianslipper at 7:34 AM on February 10, 2005

Any chance you could use amplification instead of speaking loudly all day?

Keep hydrated, and back off using your voice when you recognize signs of abuse (pain, hoarseness).
posted by kmel at 7:34 AM on February 10, 2005

F.M. Alexander, a Shakespearean actor of the early 1900s, developed the Alexander Technique after repeated voice loss during performance. When no amount of vocal rest could fix his voice, he realized he must have been doing something to create the problem. Through self-observation, he discovered that he was not using his body in the way he thought he was. In fact, he was unconsciously interfering with his whole functioning, which caused strain and pressure on his vocal organs. Once he learned to stop interfering, he regained and improved his voice and went on to help others.

Alexander Technique Instructors in Mass

There are Alex Tech DVDs and books regarding better use of the body to project one's voice without unnecessarily overtaxing the cords, throat and body. If none of the teachers listed on that site are nearby then consider consulting the music department of a local college because they often bring in Alexander Technique experts for their instrumentalists and vocalists. The hands on personal instruction is worth a great deal of money and yet rarely costs what it will ultimately be worth to you in terms of the way it will change the way you use your body as a whole in every activity you attempt after grasping the concept.
posted by mztreskiki at 7:38 AM on February 10, 2005

rest your voice when you don't need it. i.e. don't talk at all. Use your diaphragm, not the throat to power the voice. Don't get too into the medicines and whatnot, it's all about the diaphragm and resting. Warming up can't hurt either.
posted by petebest at 7:46 AM on February 10, 2005

So what's the best way to learn to use the diaphragm rather than the throat?
posted by jjg at 8:00 AM on February 10, 2005

i drink green tea and water if I know i'm going to be speaking/performing. avoid milk and caffiene.
posted by cheaily at 8:04 AM on February 10, 2005

Avoid caffeine, excess salt and other natural diuretics. Stay very well hydrated. Dryness is the enemy of the voice.
posted by Dreama at 8:35 AM on February 10, 2005

Definitely drink lots and lots of water. "Pee pale" is a good mantra. Ginger tea, with honey, on days when you have a sore throat - ginger tea is best made simply by boiling ginger root in water. Avoid excessive milk products.
posted by kyrademon at 8:42 AM on February 10, 2005

If you can stand it gargle with warm salty water. Best thing for a sore throat ever.
posted by john-paul at 8:50 AM on February 10, 2005

Hot, steamy showers.
And what everyone else said.
posted by Stauf at 9:09 AM on February 10, 2005

All of the above are wonderful suggestions, especially looking into the Alexander Technique. The Alex Tech will address the cause, not just the symptom.

I'll also offer my own advice (as someone who has been a professional singer for years): experiment with pitching your speaking voice slightly higher than you might ordinarily. This helps reduce the strain on the vocal chords.

And, although ginger is okay, I've found that hot water and lemon juice with honey to be the most effective voice smoother. That, and Throat Coat.
posted by Specklet at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2005

well a quick google found this (PDF)

but I also have an mp3 somewhere of me doing my warmups (email is in my profile) . One warmup I suggest to "find" your diaphragm, and one I use before my warmups, is to hold your stomach with both hands and breath out quickly and strongly so that your stomach moves out, pushing your hands.

keep doing it until you think you know where your diaphragm is, then instead of just breathing make an "Huh!" sound. You should feel it deep down and you should NOT be using your throat. Also, this will make projecting your voice much easier. Learn to harness your diaphragm while talking normally and your throat will love you for it.
posted by freudianslipper at 10:16 AM on February 10, 2005

and I also agree with avoiding a lot of milk products if you can.
posted by freudianslipper at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2005

jjg: this article talks a little bit about speaking from the diaphragm. It basically involves using your stomach-area muscles to propel air out of your lungs so you're not making your lungs and throat do the amplification work. It's an actor technique which, along with good enunciation, allows you to speak loudly and clearly without exhausting yourself, at least not as quickly.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on February 10, 2005

So what's the best way to learn to use the diaphragm rather than the throat?

I don't know about the best, but taking singing lessons is one.
posted by advil at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2005

When I was in basic training, all the drill sergeants ate lemons all the time, and I know a number of people who add lemon to tea to help for their throats, so that would seem to be why they were doing it. And it was defiantly a job where one yells a lot.

That being said, they were eating lemons like they were oranges, something I don't think you could ever convince me to try. And not one of them ever lost their voice, that's for sure.
posted by KirTakat at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2005

Best answer: 1. Hydration. Water is best... warm tea with honey, lemon-y things and so forth won't hurt (provided they aren't alcoholic/caffeinated... stay away from these substances), but water is absolutely the most effective thing you can ingest. The vocal folds need to be well-lubricated to function effectively, so the more hydrated you are, the better. TMI-Filter: If your urine isn't clear, you're not drinking enough water. The "Throat Coat" thing sounds bogus... keep in mind that fluids ingested never touch the vocal folds themselves unless you are either gargling or actually aspirating said fluid into your lungs. Therefore it would seem impossible for that product to actually "coat" your vocal folds. (If I'm incorrect about this, someone please correct me.)

2. Schedule voice breaks for yourself during the day. Total voice rest isn't necessary (and may not even be all that helpful; IIRC it's not universally indicated anymore as a solution for vocal strain except in serious cases). But if you can schedule a 5-10 minute window each hour where you are not speaking, that will help. Perhaps you can coordinate a five-minute voice break each hour with downing a glass of water, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

3. Try to speak softer. Be aware of your posture; if you're slouching, the diaphragm/abdominals won't be able to help support the voice and you'll put a lot of strain on the muscles of the larynx. The amplification idea is good. Be particularly careful on the phone, as most of us speak much louder than we need to then. People who are on the phone all day, every day for work occasionally display voice disorders.

4. See an otolaryngologist for an evaluation if you're really concerned about your voice. If there are problems, singing lessons and/or speech therapy couldn't hurt, although I'd recommend the latter rather than the former in the unlikely event of some physical problem like nodules.

5. Re: the lemon thing above... I recall reading in Richard Miller's book The Structure of Singing that the chewing mechanism can help with warming up the voice, so there may be something to that. I'd substitute apples for lemons, per Miller's suggestion.

(I'm a voice teacher. In addition, my ex is a speech-language pathologist and I've asked her a bunch of questions about these things over the years. I am not a licensed medical professional, though.)
posted by the_bone at 12:23 PM on February 10, 2005 [3 favorites]

I'm drinking a tea called Throat Comfort right now. It's got licorice and ginger in it, among other things, and does seem to help somewhat. I also just like it, though.
posted by mdn at 12:34 PM on February 10, 2005

Warning about Throat Coat or anything else that coats your throat (from the actor/classical singer that I am): chocolate, milk, honey (although honey is a natural anti-bacterial so it is good for when you are sick), etc. Coating your throat may give you a false impression of comfort/health, thus leading you to strain your voice to the point of injury. If your throat hurts, the best thing is to not use it until it gets better (except to eat).

So, learn to raise your voice properly, which means breathing properly, in order to avoid injury. I seriously suggest taking in a session or two with a voice coach. Properly, you shouldn't even use your throat at all.
posted by scazza at 7:39 PM on February 10, 2005

Take lessons.
A good technique is the key to preserving your voice, and however much you get from the internet, there's no substitute for having a good teacher watch what you do and correct your mistakes.
Learn some good warm ups. Take as long warming your voice up as a pro athlete would spend warming up whichever bits they use. You're a pro too, and just as reliant on getting lasting performance out of your body.
I work with a lot of people who think they do it properly, but, even if they aren't using the throat for projection, keep it too constricted and cause themselves problems. Your entire shoulder/neck/throat area should be relaxed and unconstricted.
posted by monkey closet at 12:56 AM on February 11, 2005

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