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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Losing Your Voice Is Nothing To Shout About.

by Gary Terzza

It is hay fever season and I don't know whether it's my imagination, but more and more people seem to be suffering earlier and earlier. It is also the season of the summer cold,  so if you rely on your voice for a living,  what is the best way to treat a sore or affected throat?

As it is that time of year, I think it is appropriate to return to one of my earlier posts on voice care.

Politicians have a habit of going hoarse. Tony Blair has been a sufferer and this seems to have had a long term effect. Listen to his speeches in the nineties compared with the timbre of his voice today. Then it was light and smooth, whilst today there is a background rasp and slightly scratchy tone.

Ageing may have taken it's toll, but the more likely cause is overuse. Relentless public speaking puts a huge strain on the vocal folds. Do this over a number of years and in stressful situations and you can understand why the larynx starts to give up some of it's original youthfulness.

Another politician who has literally found it difficult to make himself heard is Bill Clinton. His natural huskiness has been exacerbated by years on the campaign trail and endless public speaking events. His frequent hoarseness has been further compounded by underlying nasal allergies (he had an operation to help with rhinitis as long ago as 1979) and reflux.

In the latter case, the acid produced by the stomach comes back up into the oesophagus and throat, having an adverse effect on the voice box.

So what can we do to keep our voices finely tuned?

There are lots of sensible things we can do: don't smoke, drink lots of tepid water (not icy as this can adversely affect the vocal folds in speech) and go easy on dairy products and, of course, alcohol. Try not to shout and rest the voice if  it has had a punishing schedule. The British Voice Association has some very useful tips on how to look after your voice and I personally find their guidelines invaluable.

Poignantly older people often find their voices have become croaky due to a lack of use; this can be a direct result of social isolation - they simply have not had anyone to talk to. If this is the case it is important to exercise the vocal cords on a regular basis with gentle humming or even singing around the house!

You don't have to be a voice over artist, singer or politician to suffer from voice loss. Teachers, call centre staff, sales people and anyone who does presentations at work or  just uses the telephone a lot are all at risk.

When your career depends on vocal dexterity, that is quite a sobering thought.

Do you have any tips for sore throats or advice on maintaining a healthy voice? Please let me know in the comments below.

Gary Terzza is a voice over coach based in London.

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