Archive for the 'Vocal Health' Category

Dec 31 2016

5 ways to improve your voice in 2017

Published by under Miscellaneous,Vocal Health

dreamstime_s_77890673Many of us start the New Year with goals and promises to improve our lives. Of course, old habits die hard, and new ones may not stick.  It takes anywhere from 21-254 days to form a new behavior, depending on the complexity of the behavior and the amount of time spent working on the change. If you want to get rid of “ums,” or up-speak, or learn to move with purpose on stage, you have to give it focus, practice, and, of course, time.  However, you can make the change sticky by applying the practice and focus in multiple ways. Below is a list of five ways to improve your voice and improve your health, even your life!

Drink more water: Hydration is key to making the body work better and keeping the voice lubricated. Signs of dehydration will begin to show with as little as a 2% deficit of fluids in the body. It’s a great idea to keep water on hand and sip it throughout the day, particularly if you are presenting, singing, or simply speaking a lot during the day.

Walk: Your voice is housed in your body. Whatever is good for the rest of you is good for your voice.  Walking, riding a bike, running and swimming are all recommended. Professor Bruce Schoonmaker at Furman University has created a webpage with data and suggestions for the best exercise to benefit your voice.  Check it out!

Breathe: The next time you give a talk, take time to inhale and exhale deeply just before you get up to speak.  Then, as you start to speak, breathe into your first words.  Do this every time you give a presentation. You’ll be more relaxed, thus improving your voice and your credibility.

Join a choir.  Recent studies have shown many benefits to choir singing, including a happier life; singers are more fit, happier, and more productive  If you guessed it’s because of the oxytocin produced in the brain by singing, you would be correct. But the good health of singers is also due to the increased levels of immunoglobulin A, that is stimulated by singing and is a key factor in respiratory health.

Practice intentional communication:  Intention is what one has in mind to do or bring about, and I mean literally “in mind,” as was shown by two studies of intention.  In the first, it was revealed by New York researchers that infants as young as six months old can understand our intentions, and respond to them.  Another study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that the mirror neuron system tracks not only the actions, but also the intentions, of others.  This mirror neuron system has been identified as being very important in guiding our social interactions, especially in survival and keeping us safe. Therefore, intention is a component of “trustworthiness” in social interaction and it is definitely picked up by others, which is why you need to be clear about your intention as a speaker.

For more help in doing what you say you’re going to do, check out this interesting organization:  Because I Said I Would. 

And for help making a new behavior stick, please see How to form a new habit on this blog.

© Tom Wang | Dreamstime.com

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Sep 12 2016

The Aging Voice: Thicker middle, thinner voice

Published by under Vocal Health

dreamstime_xs_3311941If you are over 50, you may have noticed your voice growing weaker, or phlegmier, or sounding more tired than it used to. Sorry to say, but the process that makes your knees sag also makes your vocal folds get thinner and lose strength and tone. Without sufficient bulk, the cords’ opposing tissues can’t meet in the middle to produce the vibrations that cause sound. Yes, it’s not fair that you get a thicker waistline, where you don’t need the bulk, and thinner muscle where you do! Although there is no fountain of youth, the search for the voice you used to have doesn’t have to end in frustration.  According to laryngologists, older voices can be revived with the proper care, exercise, treatment for acid reflux, and even collagen injections to plump the folds and close the gap. Note: you have to get collagen injected into the vocal folds; the improvement doesn’t come from just getting rid of frown lines.

* Stay hydrated. It seems that we need more water as we age because our bodies have lower water reserves.  Dehydration contributes to phlegm in the throat. Besides,  water is good for your heart! Drink water! Consider using steam and be sure to avoid things like cough drops and other lozenges with eucalyptus that can be drying. Consider glycerin based lozenges like Lakerol or Black Currant Pastilles.

* Keep your body strong and healthy. Your body is your voice; improved circulation, respiration and stamina will improve your voice, too.

* Once the vocal folds begin to lose their bulk, it’s less likely that you will damage your voice by being too aggressive with your voice (i.e. over-singing, yelling, or belting.) In fact, louder, stronger vocal exercises can improve the strength of an aging voice. Try some nice loud shower singing to start your day.

Just remember that you should always consult an otolaryngologist (ENT) or a Speech Language Pathologist if you are experiencing vocal weakness, and before beginning vigorous vocal practice. While age-related changes can cause voice changes, there are other vocal fold issues that must be ruled out before you begin to work on any strengthening program.

Special thanks for edits by Edie R. Hapner, PhD CCC-SLP, Professor
Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
Keck Medicine of USC
University of Southern California
USC Voice Center

Related posts:

Three steps to create a super voice for vocal marathons

How to relieve a tired voice

How to find a singing teacher

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