How is my voice produced?
Your voice is produced by larynx or the ‘voice box’ situated in front of your neck. The voice box has two ribbon-like structures on either side known as vocal cords that come together and vibrate to produce a sound called ‘voice’. This voice is then articulated by tongue to produce different words. It will be interesting to know that your vocal cords vibrate around 130 times in men; 220 times in women and about 300 times per second in children.
Why is my voice important?
Your voice is a huge part of what you are. Your identity is tied to it and any change in it may lower self-esteem and decrease productivity. Among professional voice users, unattended voice change may lead to permanent damage to your voice box and mean cutting short your career. Persistent voice change may be due to cancer which if not treated early may lead to sinister outcomes.
Who are at risk?
Professional voice users like singers, teachers, actors, salespersons and all those who use their voice for their livelihood, as also children and mothers of small children. All general public with the history of voice change especially those with a history of smoking, alcohol, and GERD.
How do I get evaluated?
Your symptom history and voice is evaluated by a specialist/ speech-language pathologist or both and then the voice box examination is done with the stroboscopy. Based on the assessment, you will be appropriately treated and will be guided by the experts on how to take care of your voice in future so as to prolong your professional career.
What is stroboscopy and how should I go prepared for it?
The vocal cords are conventionally seen with an endoscope going through your nose or throat. However, with a normal light and vocal cords vibrating at more than 100 times a second, vital information regarding the vibratory wave and the edge of the vocal cord is more likely to be missed. The stroboscopic light compensates for this by closely synchronizing the light to the frequency of your vocal cords such that the vibrations are seen in slow motion. This is a simple procedure done in the office and does not require you to be fasting nor will you be sedated.
Do I need to undergo surgery if I have a voice problem?
No! Most of the voice problems can be taken care of with a good voice therapy and surgery is needed only for lesions that will not be cured with voice therapy alone.
What is speech therapy?
Speech therapy is a form of education that helps you understand the way voice is produced and train you to speak or sing in a way that is less harmful to your vocal cords. This may be a couple of sessions a week to a few weeks depending on the nature of the problem.
How do I keep my voice healthy?
- Don’t smoke, it includes passive smoking as well.
- Drink plenty of water, at least 8-10 glasses a day. This will keep the vocal cords moist and also thins out the secretions.
- Avoid throat clearing. This will slam your vocal cords harder that can lead to injury in the long run. Instead, sip some water or try swallowing saliva to get rid of the sensation.
- Take adequate voice rest. When you have some additional vocal engagement, make sure you balance it by resting your voice before and after it.
- Control your vocal loudness. Do not yell, shout or scream. Whispering is also not good. Control your voice especially when you are speaking in a noisy environment or against a background noise.
- Use caution with over the counter medications, especially those decongestants and allergy medications. Remember, alcohol and caffeine also have a drying effect on your vocal cords.
- Use microphone while speaking to an audience of more than 15 people.
- Use caution during episodes of laryngitis. Give adequate voice rest and speak in a soft voice (not whisper) if required.
- Take care of your acid reflux.