I was pretty upset yesterday about losing my voice, even though I knew it was not a permanent condition. An acute laughing (ha!) or coughing attack can obviously inflame the vocal cords, as it did mine, but only chronic abuse of the voice can create nodules or polyps on the cords. So I knew it was just a fluke and would quickly heal.
Actually, my voice is better today although I'll continue to be silent to rest it. I'm sure I'll be perfectly recovered by tomorrow, and I will be singing like a bird.
Since I've never had this happen to me, and I've been laughing heartily for most of my life, I thought it curious that suddenly a little laughter made me hoarse. I've been taking antihistamines recently for allergy, so I found this info on the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) website pretty interesting:
"Medications can also affect the voice by thinning blood in the body, which makes bruising or hemorrhaging of the vocal cord more likely if trauma occurs, and by causing fluid retention (edema), which enlarges the vocal cords. Medications from the following groups can adversely affect the voice:
Antihypertensives (blood pressure medication)
Antihistamines (allergy medications)
Anticholinergics (asthma medications)
High-dose Vitamin C (greater than five grams per day)"
Although I drink a lot of water, knowing the importance of hydrating the vocal cords, I wonder if the antihistamines had dried out my cords more than
usual and caused the after-laughing coughing? It makes sense. Probably my cords had less fluidity or protective mucous and were traumatized by the laughing!
I'm going to be drinking my Viva La Voice Tonic for the rest of the week and and in the future while I'm on antihistamines. You should too if you're taking any of the above medications. It will help protect your voice.
Find the VIVA LA VOICE TONIC RECIPE to guard your voice!
Open Up Your Words!
The next time you sing a song, or give a presentation, become conscious of 'opening up your words'. So many times I'll hear a singer or speaker, and can't understand most of the words they're saying or singing! What you've got to realize is that people may not have heard your song before, so all your words, your entire story, is new to them. If you're presenting, everything you'll be saying to your audience is brand new!
Do your audience a favor and let them CLEARLY UNDERSTAND YOU. No one will be focusing on your message if they're straining to hear your words.
The way to make yourself clearly understood is to open up your words. I don't mean to open your mouth in phony, exaggerated movement. All you have to do is simply make more space INSIDE your mouth. By imagining an orange (or some other small fruit!) inside your mouth, you'll lift up the soft palette and open up the words. Elongating your vowels will also make it easier to hear every word.
It's also important to slow down your speech, or slightly overemphasize your pronunciation. What is clear to you, may still be hard to understand for someone who's unfamiliar with your words and topic.
Singers, especially, need to open up vowels and make space for their words so that lyrics are clear and understandable. If you're telling an important story with your song, you want it to be understood, otherwise, your audience won't be able to relate to your music and you will have lost a very important emotional connection.
Remember that what sounds clear to you in normal speech or singing, may not be clear to an audience who has never heard your presentation or music. Open up your words to clearly communicate your message and the emotion that is the key to your success as an effective performer!
Throat Clearing can damage your vocal cords!
Here's a helpful article from guidetohealth.com
Throat Clearing - WHEN TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR
* Your repeated throat clearing has persisted for a week or more.
* Clearing your throat is disturbing your sleep or affecting your speech.
* Your throat clearing has begun to cause hoarseness or pain in your throat.
* You also have trouble breathing or swallowing.
What Your Symptom Is Telling You
Ahem. Clearing your throat is a time-honored way to draw polite attention. Just ask Miss Manners. But you may be clearing your throat so often that it's drawing negativeattention. Perhaps a family member is wondering if you have some kind of throat problem. It's even starting to annoy you.
Chances are, it's just a habit that got started when you had an upper respiratory or throat infection a while back. Even though the original secretions that produced the tickle were over, you continued to clear your throat. That repeated throat clearing has been banging your vocal cords together, and when they meet so forcefully, they swell and create the sensation that something is still there in your throat. Your response? Ahem-and-ahem--more swelling, more sensation, and the cycle goes on.
Another common cause of throat clearing is acid reflux—excess stomach acid that creeps up the esophagus and irritates your throat, usually while you sleep. You may have reflux even without experiencing heartburn, doctors say.
Inadequate fluid intake and smoking can also dry and irritate the throat, prompting you to clear it. A good case of stage fright can do the same thing.
Aging can also have a drying effect on mucous membranes and prompt throat clearing. And if you've undergone radiation therapy, that may have dried your throat as well.
There's a lot you can do to clear up a throat-clearing problem.
Raise your fluid level. You need a crutch if you want to quit the throat-clearing habit, says David Alessi, M.D., an otolaryngologist in Los Angeles. And that crutch is water. "Feel like clearing? Stop and think—drink instead. Always carry a bottle of water with you," he says. "In three weeks, your habit will be broken."
Hydrate for stage fright. "Warm liquids are good if you're fighting stage fright," says Howard Levine, M.D., director of the Mount Sinai Nasal Sinus Center in Cleveland. "Your mouth and throat are drier when you're scared," he points out. Try this concoction when you need to use your voice in front of a group: Warm water with lemon juice and honey. "It creates humidity, coats the throat and gives soothing relief," says Dr. Levine.
Humidify the air. In winter, when there's dry forced hot air inside and cold dry air outside, use room humidifiers, suggests Steven Zeitels, M.D., an otolaryngologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. The vapor will ease irritated throat membranes.
Swallow the problem. "Instead of clearing your throat, do a hard swallow—an extended swallow as though you had something in your throat," suggests Glenn Bunting, a senior speech pathologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "It may alleviate the sensation that something is there."
Try the hard stuff. Bunting recommends sucking on hard candy to increase saliva and moisturize the throat. But don't use menthol lozenges, he says. They may be drying.
Be gentle. Your vocal cords are very small, about the size of a nickel, says Bonnie Raphael, Ph.D., a vocal coach for the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Imagine blowing into a tiny musical instrument, she suggests. "How hard would you blow? You need to avoid overpowering the vocal mechanism and think instead of providing just a steady, gentle breeze." Here is her prescription for reducing your ahem-ing.
"The safest way to clear the throat is to sharply sniff and then swallow. If you feel you must clear the throat, then do so silently without any voice at all. The more you avoid abusing your throat, the less damage you'll do to your vocal cords," she says.
Dry up the drips. If postnasal drip from an allergy or sinusitis is the culprit, treat these underlying conditions first, suggests Dr. Levine.
Relieve reflux. "If throat clearing is occurring after meals or when you're asleep, it may be the result of reflux," says Dr. Zeitels. Try taking antacids.
I totally agree with this article by Dr. Eva Gotell. Singing is such a powerful tool for accessing the mind and heart, where other modalities fail.
Caregiver singing improves the communication between patient and caregiverThis website describes intervention research in dementia care, focusing on caregiver singing as the primary method, or what is called Music Therapeutic Caregiving (MTC).The principal investigator for this research, Dr. Eva Götell, has found that caregiver singing can help reduce aggressiveness in the communication between caregivers and persons with severe dementia. In addition, such singing can have positive influences on verbal communication, body expression, sensory awareness, and mood, and can even create a joint sense of vitality between the caregiver and the person with dementia.
In their ongoing research, Eva Götell and her team are committed to further describing the influences, and measuring the effects, of Music Therapeutic Caregiving, where the caregiver sings for – or together with – persons with dementia during complex dementia-care situations.
Awful! The dreaded 'Vocal Nodule'!
This is an post from Sarah Luebke's Blog: good information!
Vocal health is very important, especially for people who use their voices for most of their day,such as teachers of singing who not only speak through lessons, but also sing to model for their students.
The voice can become a problem when pitch, volume or the tone of the voice begins to draw attention to itself rather than to what the speaker is talking about. Sometimes the voice can sound too high, too soft, too nasal or hoarse, or can even cause pain to the speaker or singer. So how can the busy voice teacher continue singing, teaching, and modeling without putting undue stress of her voice?
Symptoms of vocal damage include:
It is important to know when the voice is not just tired, but may need medical attention. If you experience breathiness, huskiness, hoarseness, loss of vocal power, monotone, sore or tense throat, loss of the voice, pitch breaks and easy vocal fatigue, it it time to consult an ENT (ear nose and throat doctor).
What about vocal nodules?
Vocal nodules are often caused by abuse of the voice and are indicated by some of the above symptoms. The vocal folds are generally smooth, white mucous covered surfaces without any ridges or blemishes. With vocal abuse a haematoma – or bruise – can appear on the vibrating edge of the vocal folds and over time, if this is not given adequate rest and healing, the haematoma can become more fibrous and form into soft or hard nodules on the vocal folds. Generally they appear in pairs, one per fold, and the combination of the two nodules meeting each other will not allow the vocal folds to meet cleanly and vibrate correctly, hence the often breathy or husky vocal tone that accompanies them.
Factors that contribute to voice problems:
The simplest remedy for vocal health is to look after our own overall health. If we get run down or ill, our voice will also be affected. Here are some other more specific ideas for vocal health.
Thanks Sarah for this good information! To avoid nodes - learn to sing correctly, and don't abuse your voice! Treat it kindly!
You can get rid of vocal nodules by learning to sing correctly. But it's important to add a caveat to that truth - before you begin a new course of study with a new teacher, you must rest your voice completely so that the nodules can reduce in size, or diminish all together. You'll then be starting with a 'clean slate' and can begin re-training the voice so that you won't get nodules again.
I didn't speak for a month each time that I got nodes, (3 times in 3 years!) and that was incredibly difficult. It also gave me a great awareness of how much we talk, jabber, shout - just generally use and abuse our voices routinely day in and day out! I learned to weigh my words (because I had to WRITE them all out longhand!) before I silently 'talked' and gained a new appreciation for our voices that work 24/7 with very little rest. It's kind of like feet.....we walk on them all day long and never give them any care!!
If you think that you may have vocal nodules, see an ENT to properly diagnose your issue; rest your voice for 2-4 weeks - and that means no TALKING or SINGING! Then begin studying with a teacher (Bel Canto preferred) who will solve your vocal problems for life. Here's an article 'How Bel Canto Saved My Career'.
I found my Mentor Giuseppe Balestrieri in Los Angeles, and from the time I began studying with him I have never had nodules, or any other problem with my voice - and that was almost 40 years ago!! If you would like help with changing the way you sing, please check out my philosophy on healthy singing.
Early on in my career in Los Angeles I had a lot of vocal problems. It was frustrating and disheartening because I was taking voice lessons every week and felt I was doing all I could to sing properly.
At that time, I was studying the Seth Riggs method, which is now known as Speech Level Singing. Many big stars were reportedly studying this method so it seemed like the thing that would support my voice while I was singing a lot of R&B and Pop. Unbelievably, I got nodules on my vocal cords three times in three years! My career was in peril at this point and I knew I couldn't keep on singing the same way, or I'd continue to wreck my voice.
As a last resort, I was referred to Giuseppe Balestrieri who taught Bel Canto singing, although he never mentioned it by name. His approach was completely different than the Riggs method, and initially I was really concerned that I would hurt my voice again by singing full voice as Giuseppe asked me to. I resisted his method until he said to me, "If you're singing correctly, you'll never get nodules again." He asked me to trust him by
saying "just give me four lessons," and I did.
Those four lessons with Maestro Balestrieri changed the way I sang, and I never looked back. He gave me the gift of a healthy, centered, beautiful voice. I have adopted the basis of his Bel Canto style while incorporating my own features into a vocal system that protects and builds healthy voices - the Lawrence Vocal System.
How do you get rid of vocal nodules? Hopefully, not by invasive surgery that could damage your voice forever. You can truly get rid of nodules by learning to sing correctly! I am living proof that you can not only get rid of vocal nodules, but you can prevent vocal problems for life.
In my experience, a vocal system based on the Bel Canto style is the only way to go. It saved my voice. Most basically, when you are singing, if it doesn't feel good, it probably isn't! Singing should be easy and effortless without stress or strain, or undue compression on the vocal cords.
My best advice - find a teacher who teaches Bel Canto. The training may feel contrary to what you are used to. That's probably because you've been studying and singing incorrectly! The great news is that if you're having vocal problems, if you have nodes or chronic vocal cord inflammation, there is hope. You can get rid of nodules naturally by simply changing the way you sing, and learning to sing correctly.
Pink - Singing with Emotion!
I love talking about the emotional component of singing. Recently, a voice coach said 'in 98% of these cases, the only reason the singer can't do what they want with their voices is because of ineffective and inefficient voice teaching..'
I agree that many people have been given incorrect singing habits thanks to a teacher, and it's a process to reprogram positive vocal habits, but what I have found is the converse of your comment. I believe that most vocal problems have a root in false beliefs or emotional blockages, and that no amount of technique can overcome a subconscious need to hold, constrict and protect - which manifests in vocal challenges.
Usually, voice work alone is the mechanism that finally brings awareness and opens the channels of release - it is that powerful. When the intention is to open and release the voice (which is always the intention!) the very act of getting out of the way and letting the voice 'go' can cause huge emotional release. Often my clients burst out in tears at that point of release, and after that, the technique can then be applied without the past resistance.
I agree, that the intention is never to psychoanalyze the client, and one must be very careful to let the natural course of 'letting go' lead any discussion that may be initiated by the student. Then, I find that being a good listener; suggesting to the client how the emotional issue has manifested in constriction etc.; and then wholeheartedly using singing as the tool for further expansion of voice, and self works very well. When clients get to that point I find that they are thrilled to 'find their voice' and want to open up further.
After years of working with singers I find it essential to address vocal challenges at ALL levels. So much of singing is mental/emotional, and in order to really free the voice, you have to get to the root of the emotional block. Usually stifled creativity, or just plain old shutting down of the ability to 'speak one's truth,' leads to constriction and an inability to release the voice, both emotionally and physically. It's like peeling an onion - you just compassionately and intuitively chink away at the armor that has been built up over the years that masks true feelings and the ability to express those feelings. Very fascinating!
A really amazing thing happens when you lock into the emotion of your song and stop thinking about technique -- you can easily hit notes that might be a challenge for you. Why does this happen? First, because since singing is 90 percent mental, when you stop thinking about your problem notes, your emotion gives you the vocal power to hit those notes easily.
Second, when you're singing in the emotional moment, your fear disappears! Fear keeps you from going fully for a note, and without total conviction and full support, your fear will keep you from your best performance.
So get into the emotion of your song, stop thinking, and let your voice fly free!
From Beth Lawrence
If you're serious about singing then you've got to take care of your voice. Here are some healthy ways to do that!
Beth Lawrence, Award-winning singer, songwriter and author of "From Shower To Stage...7 Easy Steps for Singing Like A Pro!"