Six Signs there May be a Problem with Your Voice
Your voice is the sound of your vocal
cords vibrating as air passes out through your larynx. (Some people call the
larynx the “voice box.”) Do you ever wonder whether your voice is as healthy as
it should be? These are the signs of a problem with your voice:
- Hoarseness or raspiness
- A raw, achy or strained feeling
- Feeling as though talking is an effort
- Clearing your throat frequently
- People always asking you if you have a cold when you do
- No longer being able to reach high notes when you’re
Problems with your voice
can be caused by overuse, using your voice the wrong way, infection, injury and
sometimes cancer. There are measures everyone should take to protect their
Drink plenty of water.
Your vocal chords vibrate very quickly when you make any sound with your voice.
They need to be well lubricated. Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day helps
produce mucous, which helps with lubrication.
Avoid cigarette smoke.
Cigarette smoke (either second- or first-hand) passes by the vocal cords as you
breathe in. This causes irritation and swelling, and can cause permanent changes
in the quality of your voice. Smoking also increases the risk of throat and lung
Use your voice wisely.
Constant yelling and screaming is bad for your voice. Talking above a lot of
background noise strains your voice too, so try to limit this. If you notice
that your voice is becoming hoarse, dry or tired, do your best to stop talking.
If you often need to use your voice outdoors or in front of a crowd, it’s a good
idea to use microphones and other voice amplifiers.
Try not to clear your
throat too often. Every time you
clear your throat, your vocal cords slam together, which can be a strain.
Instead, try drinking a sip of water or even just swallowing. If you find that
you have to clear your throat frequently, it’s possible that you could have a
medical condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, sinus problems or
allergies. Ask your doctor to evaluate your condition.
Rest your voice when
you’re sick. If you have an upper
respiratory infection, or even if your voice is hoarse from overuse, keep your
voice quiet as much as possible. If you use your voice professionally—if you’re
a singer, for example—it’s especially important not to over-tax your voice,
because if you do, you could end up with permanent damage.
Speak in a natural tone.
Trying to make your voice sound lower than it really is, or speaking in a higher
tone than is natural, can lead to hoarseness and other problems with your voice.
Proper breathing technique while you’re using your voice, which includes
relaxing your upper body and breathing from your lower chest or abdominal area
(not your shoulders and neck), can help decrease tension in your throat and
When should you see a
doctor about your voice?
Everybody has times when your voice
becomes hoarse or raspy, for all kinds of reasons. But a good rule of thumb is
that if your voice doesn’t return to normal within 2 to 4 weeks after a change,
see your doctor. It’s important to know that a change in voice is one of the
signs of throat cancer. The earlier this type of cancer is detected, the better
the chances that treatment will be effective.
American Academy of Otolaryngology