You probably take your voice for granted. It’s always been there for you so why think about it?
But take a moment to imagine life without your voice: no phones calls, no smart ripostes when chatting to friends, no soothing lullabies for your baby, no reading stories to your children, no heckling at a council meeting, no singing your favourite tunes to the radio…
Writing, e-mailing and texting don’t make up for a lost voice because you convey so much more than words with your voice. Humour and all your many emotions are communicated by the pitch and loudness variations of your voice.
Working with people with voice problems - or dysphonia, to use the medical term - most of whom, I’m pleased to say, recover their normal voice, has shown me that even a minor problem with one’s voice can be a distressing and frustrating situation. Imagine waking up and looking in the mirror and finding your face had changed overnight and was unrecognisable. Think of the stress it would cause. A change in your voice is just as personal and can be quite as stressful.
- ‘When I had my voice problem, I felt I no longer had the right to speak.’ Maureen, 63
- ‘They teased me about my voice and said I sounded like a boy.’ Alexa, 11
- ‘My boss thought I was taking the mick, keeping on having days off, but trying to talk hurt my throat so much it made me feel tired and ill all the time.’ Simon, 34
- ‘Now my voice is normal, I feel as if I have my life back.’ Denise, 42
- ‘I just supposed it was old age and I’d have to live with that strange, weak old voice for the rest of my life. Now I sound like I used to, and I feel younger and livelier because of it.’ John, 84
- ‘I tried really hard not to shout and now my voice doesn’t hurt any more.’ Tyrese, 5
- ‘I can sing now. I’m so happy. I’m me again.’ Lindy, 33*
You may have heard of well-known singers and actors suffering from voice problems but anybody can experience dysphonia - I’ve seen people of all ages from toddlers to those in their nineties with problems ranging from minor changes that are remedied very quickly to those that are far more complex and, just occasionally, need highly specialist surgical intervention.
Many voice difficulties are a result of muscle tension, so keeping active but relaxed with good posture can help prevent problems. Your voice is precious and like all precious things, it needs a little care. One of the best things you can do for it, is to keep well hydrated and water is the best way - so drink 6 -8 glasses a day.
Your voice likes to be used but not misused. Shouting and screaming don’t do it any good at all. Talking over constant noise can soon cause it problems and smoking is a big no-no. Avoid frequent throat clearing as that too can irritate your vocal cords. (No, they’re not vocal chords!)
If you have concerns about any voice changes which have persisted for more than a couple of weeks, see you GP and ask for a referral to a specialist Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeon (ENT). Specialist Speech and Language therapists can help in overcoming many voice problems, once a diagnosis has been made.
World Voice Day on April 16th aims to celebrate our voices in all their wonderful diversity.
and the Voice Care Network
NB. *Names have been changed for confidentiality.