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Learning About Taking Care of Your Voice

Normal vocal cords, closed and open

What is voice?

Your voice is the result of complex actions that involve several body parts. As you breathe out, air gently passes out through your windpipe, across your open vocal cords, through your throat, and out your mouth and nose. When you speak, your vocal cords close partway as air travels through them. This causes them to vibrate and produce the sound of your voice.

We use our voices every day—at home and with friends, at work and school, out shopping, and on the phone. Voice is one of the many ways we maintain relationships, express ourselves, and solve problems. And because most of us have always had our voice, it's easy to take it for granted.

But you can take steps to take care of your voice. Healthy habits can help you keep a strong voice for a lifetime.

How can you take care of your voice?

General voice care

Keep your throat moist. Try these ideas:

  • Drink plenty of water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to your bedroom. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Breathe in steam from a pot of hot water or a facial steamer.

Don't smoke. Smoking can make your voice raspy and can increase your risk of throat cancer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Avoid other things that can irritate your voice, such as second-hand smoke, dust, and fumes.

Speak at a moderate volume, and don't overuse your voice. Here are some tips:

  • Try not to talk loudly or shout, such as at sports events or other noisy places. Sometimes it might be helpful to use a microphone.
  • Don't whisper. It can be hard on your voice.

Rest your voice if it gets hoarse or irritated. Use email, send text messages, or write notes instead of talking.

Choose a mouthwash that does not have alcohol. And if you take medicines for colds or allergies, choose ones that won't dry out your vocal cords. Ask your doctor which ones would be best for you.

Voice care when you have a health problem

If you have laryngitis caused by colds or influenza (flu), rest your voice and drink lots of liquids. Treatment is usually not needed. But other medical problems, such as allergies, sinus infections, or acid reflux, can affect your voice. Getting treatment for these problems can help your voice improve.

If you have trouble with your voice that lasts for more than a few weeks, see your doctor. You may need medicines, voice therapy, or other treatments to help strengthen your voice.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.