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Voice and Resonance

Keeping your voice healthy

Each of us has a unique voice. The sound of our voice is made by our vocal cords vibrating as air from the lungs flows between them. The sound is shaped as it passes the throat, palate, tongue, teeth, and lips.

​​We can usually tell if a person is male or female just by listening to their voice. Our voices can show if we’re upset, happy, or ill. We use our voices countless times every day, so practicing good voice health is important.

See the chart below for some suggestions about how to keep your voice healthy.

What to avoid​​​
What to do instead
  • clearing your throat and coughing a lot
  • drink water, swallow, hum, cough silently
  • speaking over background n​oise or from a long distance
  • turn down noise
  • choose quiet restaurants or find a quiet corner at a party
  • be no more than an arm's length away from the person you're talking to
  • use an intercom system or walkie-talkies between rooms at home
  • yelling, screaming, and cheering
  • making unusual noises (e.g., animal noises, special effects, forced whispering, harsh laughing)
  • use noise makers, clapping, foot stomping, or hand signals to get someone's attention
  • talking too fast, too loud, too high, too low, or when you're almost out of air
  • speak in a comfortable pitch range, keeping muscles relaxed in your shoulders, neck, jaw, tongue, and face
  • breathe easily and often while you're talking and make sure you take a breath when you run out of air
  • breathe from your belly to help make the sound of your voice
  • clenching your jaw or teeth
  • holding the telephone between your shoulder and chin
  • let your jaw move easily
  • open your mouth when talking
  • use a telephone headset
  • talking or singing to large groups without a microphone
  • use an amplification system that's loud enough for the room
  • talking too much
  • talking a lot when you're ill or when your voice is already strained
  • ​give your voice rest breaks throughout the day
  • ​spend less time talking
  • ​rest your voice if it takes effort to talk
  • ​do more listening
  • caffeine, including pop, coffee, tea, chocolate
  • alcohol

(these may dry the throat)

  • ​drink 7 to 10 glasses of water a day
  • ​drink herbal tea or non-caffeinated drinks
  • any foods that give you heartburn or acid reflux (stomach acid going back up your throat can damage your vocal chords)
  • ​talk to a doctor if you're often hoarse, have heartburn, or feel like you have a lump in your throat
  • ​wait 2 to 3 hours before lying down after eating if you tend to get heartburn
  • using throat lozenges (they may numb your throat and hide a problem)
  • drink water
  • suck a non-medicated hard candy
  • talk to a doctor if your sore throat doesn't get better
  • smoking, second-hand smoke, and other air pollutants
  • ​don't smoke
  • ​stay away from polluted environments
  • anything that causes you a lot of stress and upsets you
  • ​practice relaxation techniques for your body, especially your head, neck, jaw, and shoulders
  • ​think about talking to a health care provider if you're worried about your level of stress or emotions
  • singing beyond a comfortable pitch or loudness range
  • ​warm up your voice, starting softly with mid and low pitches, then gradually go higher and louder​​​

Where to go get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:

  • Your doctor, public health nurse, or other health provider
  • Your local health centre

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