How to Keep Your Vocal Cords Happy & Healthy!
If you want a successful singing career in the music industry—you need to protect your vocal cords at all costs. Otherwise, all the hard work to craft a beautiful voice can shatter before your eyes. Numerous issues can spoil your vocals—including smoking, lack of hydration, improper singing technique, and not having enough rest.
And once you’ve damaged your vocals, it’s a long road to bring them back to full strength; unfortunately, some singers never return to their former glory.
That doesn’t have to be you.
In this article, we’ll tell you how to protect your vocals to ensure your singing career flourishes:
Tips To Protect Your Vocal Cords
The human voice can be the most profound musical instrument if you look after it.
However, as powerful as your vocal chords are, you can easily damage them by staining them due to not looking after them.
That can cause various issues, from vocal fatigue to chronic pain. And—worse still—the end of your singing voice.
Let’s prevent that; here are some strategies to protect your vocals:
1. Stay Hydrated
Did you know simply staying hydrated goes a long way to maintaining your vocals?
First, our vocal cords have a delicate mucous membrane that must remain moist to function properly. If we become dehydrated—which can be common during life performances—it can dry out the mucous membrane, leading to inflammation, irritation, and damage.
As a result, it’s essential to drink plenty of water. Experts suggest you drink around eight glasses of water daily if you’re singing. However, the more, the better.
You can also add natural fruit juices and herbal teas to your daily routines; these can add enormous variety to your hydration habits.
2. Be Wary of Irritants
Another critical aspect of keeping your vocals is to avoid irritants, such as drugs, alcohol, and spicy foods. These irritants can make your voice hoarse and, worse still, damage your vocal cords if you abuse them. Everything is okay in moderation, of course.
And let’s face it—rock stars are hardly going to quit alcohol anytime soon.
Likewise, there are some medications that may cause vocal irritation. If you’re singing and taking any medications, speak to a doctor ASAP. They can determine whether a specific medication may damage your voice.
3. Use Robust Vocal Hygiene
If you want to preserve your vocal brilliance, you must practise robust vocal hygiene. These include adopting habits and behaviours that minimise strain on the vocal cords.
Here are some ways you can practise solid vocal hygiene:
- Stop shouting, screaming and whispering because these can easily strain the vocal cords.
- Use proper breathing techniques when singing or speaking, including diaphragmatic breathing to reduce unwanted stress on your vocal cords.
- Take breaks between singing sessions. Although this can be challenging when you’re on a tour, you can damage your voice box without doing so.
- Speak at a comfortable pitch and volume. If you start straining to ensure other people can hear you, that’s a sure way of damaging your vocals.
These are just some ways you can practise good vocal hygiene, but there are many other options.
4. Warm Up and Cool Down Your Voice
Believe it or not, many singers don’t warm up and cool down their voices. Sadly, this often causes many voice box issues and vocal cord disorders.
But you can avoid these issues by following these simple warm-up exercises:
- Buzzing and humming: If you buzz your lips, you can create a gentle vibration in the vocal cords that protect them from damage.
- Lip and tongue thrills: If you do gentle lip and tongue thrills, you’ll loosen your vocal cords.
- Gentle stretches: One of the best ways to warm up your vocal cords is through various stretches, including yawning and stretching the neck muscles.
Once you’ve completed warming up your vocals, it’s time to cool down the voice box. You can achieve this by singing softly, humming, doing vocal sirens, and taking some minutes to relax and rest.
The Most Common Problem for your Vocal Cords
There are many things that can cause vocal cord problems when you’re a singer. These may include vocal nodules, hoarseness, vocal polyps, and vocal cord paralysis. Let’s take a deeper look at these common issues:
When you suffer from hoarseness, your voice can become rough and raspy. Many factors can cause this, such as allergies, vocal strain, allergies, acid reflux, and smoking. In addition, if you’ve exposed yourself to chemicals and pollution, you may also witness a hoarse voice.
However, although hoarseness can be a chronic problem—it’s more often than not a temporary issue. But it’s always key to diagnose the issue and find a fix.
2. Vocal Nodules
If you strain your vocal cords repeatedly, you may experience small growths on your voice box called vocal nodules. These are relatively common in singers, teachers, and other people that use their voices heavily during their work. That said, you don’t really want them.
Vocal nodules can create difficulty in singing and reaching high notes. You may also experience a sensation of a lump in your throat. Then again, you can treat it with rest, vocal therapy, and surgery.
3. Vocal Cord Paralysis
When one or both of your vocal cords are unable to move because of damage or injury, this is called vocal cord paralysis. Common symptoms of vocal cord paralysis are a weak voice, a hard time talking, and coughing.
You can treat your vocal cord paralysis with surgery or voice therapy. However, it almost always depends on the cause of the paralysis and the severity.
4. Vocal Polyps
You may experience vocal polyps that feel similar to vocal nodules. You can develop these issues because of infection, trauma, and chronic inflammation. You can treat vocal polyps and vocal abuse with rest, therapy, or surgery.
5. Acid Reflux
You may experience acid reflux if you’re a singer. Acid reflux occurs when acid runs back into the oesophagus and throat, causing irritation and inflammation.
Unfortunately, chronic acid reflux can ruin your vocal cords by causing hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and a lump in your throat. You can treat acid reflux with lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery.
A common problem with singers is laryngitis, which is the inflammation of the voice box. Many things cause laryngitis—including infections, vocal strain, and exposing your voice box to smoke and pollution.
However, you can treat this by resting, drinking lots of water, and taking medication. You could also try surgery and voice therapy.
8. Muscle Tension Dysphonia
If you experience tension around the muscles in the larynx, you may be suffering from muscle tension dysphonia. This can cause a strained voice.
You can cause muscle tension dysphonia through various emotional and physiological factors, including vocal abuse and chronic muscle tension. That said, it’s possible to treat your vocal cord tissue with rest and therapy for your emotional issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Keep My Vocal Cords Healthy?
You can keep your vocal cords healthy by following these criteria:
- Staying hydrated: One of the best ways to maintain the sound of your vocal cords is through drinking over 2 litres of water daily.
- Getting enough rest: No matter what you do, make sure you get enough rest when you’re regularly singing.
- Avoiding vocal strain: Vocal strain, although it can be an absolute nightmare, is quite simple to get if you’re not careful. However, ensure you remain careful by following the techniques in this article.
- Not drinking too much alcohol: Famous musicians often lead a life of heavy partying and drinking. That said, it often causes many vocal issues that you should avoid.
Can My Diet Affect My Vocal Cords?
Yes. Your diet can have a huge effect on your vocal cords because eating a diet that includes vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will support vocal health.
Instead, a diet with greasy food and high caffeine can cause acid reflux, something that’s potentially hazardous to your vocals.
What Are Vocal Folds?
Vocal folds, commonly called vocal cords, are two bands of muscle tissue that you’ll find in the voice box or larynx. These are critical for producing sound and speech. You can find the vocal folds within the middle of the larynx; your body positions them to vibrate once air passes through.
Whenever we speak or sing, the vocal folds will come together and make sound waves that travel through the mouth, throat, and nose. These are called vocal fold vibration. As a result, they are essential for creating the unique advantages of your voice.
Can Stress Damage My Voice?
Yes. Stress can be highly damaging to your voice because it causes tension in the muscles around your larynx, thus resulting in a stained voice.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it’s important to calm yourself before you turn a normal voice into a damaged one that causes vocal cord nodules and vocal fold paralysis. You can do this through meditation, therapy, and breathing techniques.
How Do I Diagnose Vocal Issues?
So you think you may be suffering from some type of vocal issue? First, don’t panic. In most cases, it’s probably just strained vocal cords. That said, it’s key to get a reliable diagnosis. You can contact a healthcare professional for this; alternatively, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) may assist you.
Here are the best ways to diagnose any vocal chord disorder:
Check Medical History
First, a healthcare professional will ask you or your doctor about your medical history. They’ll probably ask about previous surgeries or vocal problems that have affected your voice box.
A healthcare professional will examine the throat and larynx. They may use specialised equipment, including a laryngoscope, to see the vocal folds and look for any issues.
A Voice Assessment
A voice assessment is a possible process that a healthcare professional will undergo. They may evaluate the pitch, quality, and range of your voice. That may include making various sounds or simply talking.
How Do You Exercise Your Vocal Cord Muscles?
There are many ways you can work your vocal cord muscles to remove vocal cord weakness. Here are some popular ways:
- Lip Trills
- Tongue Twisters
- Vocal Fry
How Do I Stop Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
Vocal cord dysfunction is a common condition where your vocal cords close or narrow when they should be open. However, there are some strategies to stop vocal cord dysfunction:
- Avoid triggers: It’s essential to know the triggers that damage your vocal cords. Common triggers may include smoke, stress, and certain foods.
- Relax: You should always practise relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation if you’re a singer because it prevents voice box issues.
- Voice therapy: If you can afford voice therapy, it’s an excellent tool to overcome vocal issues.
- Medications: Speak with a medical or speech professional if you suffer from vocal issues.
There’s no doubt about it: looking after your vocals is essential if you’re a singer. But it’s not always that easy, especially if you’ve had vocal fold polyps, etc.
If you follow the tips in this article, you’ll have no issues protecting your vocals from common vocal cord disorders that ruin your voice quality.
At ICPM Elevate, we have various guides to help you become a far better singer, including: