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Protect your voice: a vocal health guide for podcasters

How to Protect Your Voice: A Vocal Health Guide for Podcasters!

Your voice is a life-long companion. Just think about it! You use it every single day. It is one of the most important parts of your identity and how you connect with the people around you. But it is also one of the most forgotten muscles in the body. It’s easy to take our voice for granted. Vocal health is not necessarily part of our daily routine. But what happens if you don’t protect your voice, and that voice gets damaged? What happens if you lose that ability to do something you barely even think about doing – talking?

This issue is even more prevalent for people who make a living from their voices. Teachers, lawyers, TV presenters, voice artists, actors, singers, and you guessed it, podcasters! Your vocal folds are a muscle just like any other. They can be overworked and even damaged just as you can strain a muscle in your leg or arm. So how can you avoid this and how do you use your voice properly so that it will last longer and be in better ‘shape’? The key is to practice vocal health and vocal hygiene. 

Take it from me…vocal health is important!

vocal coach protect your voice

As a vocal coach who trains professional singers and actors all over the world, I have spent many years focusing on the importance of protecting your vocal folds so that my clients can have long, sustainable careers and a good quality of life. I was fortunate enough to be trained by Adele Strombeck, who is known as “South Africa’s leading vocal coach.” She also happens to be my mother, but that’s beside the point (wink wink). I trained in Musical Theatre at the Waterfront Theatre College, in Cape Town, South Africa. And I have been around performers, and, as I like to call them, ‘chronic voice users,’ my entire life! 

I am passionate about transforming the way people use their voices and developing a general mindfulness and respect for the vocal cords. The technique for developing good vocal habits and healthy vocal cords that I am going to share with you today has been devised to assist podcasters, singers, and ‘voice users’ alike with improving their vocal abilities in the healthiest way possible and protecting the vocal folds. 

In this blog post, I am sharing some signs that your voice is struggling, vocal health tips for rehabilitating vocal fatigue, and ways you can develop better vocal habits. Because, at the end of the day, prevention is better than cure, right? So let’s get down to business! Here are my healthy voice insights that will transform your podcasting career!

Signs of Vocal Fatigue

vocal fatigue

I want to share my knowledge and experience of how to have a healthy voice with you. But first, let’s talk about how you know your voice is struggling. Have you ever heard someone say that they’ve got ‘a frog in their throat’? Podcasters, I’m talking to you! If your voice sounds hoarse, disappears intermittently, or is gone completely, you are probably vocally fatigued. This may happen as you wake up in the morning or after using your voice for an extended period of time. (Hint: after recording your podcast…) And will most likely worsen without rest and rehabilitation. You might even feel like your voice is pitched differently; either higher or lower than usual and as if you have lost your normal speaking range. It will likely feel like you are exerting too much effort to produce sound. This is your voice’s way of telling you it’s tired!

The Biggest Sign of Vocal Fatigue…

But the biggest tell-tale sign that your voice is struggling is if there is pain when you speak. If you have a sharp pain in your throat or near your vocal folds, it is pretty obvious that your voice needs a rest. Pain is never good and it should never feel sore when you talk. Rehabilitation is essential in this case, and you may even need to consider seeking professional help if the discomfort doesn’t subside. The number one thing I always say is that if it feels wrong, it is wrong! You know yourself best so when you feel like something isn’t right, that is your sign to give your voice some TLC.

Vocal Hygiene Tips for Good Vocal Health

But don’t panic! If you’ve recognized that your voice may need some rest or may be overly strained and fatigued, that is the first step. Now, you can begin to take action! You know that prioritizing vocal health is important. Now, you just need some practical strategies. In order to start rehabilitating your strained voice, you can start prioritizing the following rehabilitation tactics:

  • Rest: The most important thing your voice needs when it is strained and tired is rest! Rest, rest, rest! That doesn’t mean that you should stop speaking entirely. It just means you should only speak when necessary and be mindful about how you do it.1 (But more on that later!)  
  • Sleep: You also need to make sure you’re getting 6-9 hours of restful sleep at night so that your body can function properly. Sleep is essential in any healing process and rehabilitating the voice needs the same course of treatment! Your vocal cords need to sleep as much as you do.2
  • Hydration: Hydration is essential for the vocal folds as it makes them more nourished and resilient. When the body as a whole isn’t hydrated, it takes the cords longer to recover and makes them fatigued faster. So keep that water bottle near your mic!3
  • Reducing reflux: Lastly, make sure to watch your diet, particularly if you suffer from acid reflux. Acid reflux is problematic for the vocal folds as excess stomach acid causes inflammation, bleeding, and even ulcers! It’s best to prioritize foods with high fiber content. This can decrease acid reflux by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation which can contribute to reflux. I hate to break it to you…pizza is not your best bet. If you still struggle after making dietary changes, you may want to take a trip to a medical practitioner to see if some medication is necessary.4

Actionable Steps You Can Take to Help Your Tired Voice (From A Vocal Coach)

tips for vocal health

While it’s true that there is no quick fix for your struggling voice, there are some exercises you can make use of to speed the process along. And they can even be used as preventative measures. If you are a podcaster, you need to build the following exercises into your routine! I guarantee that they are going to change the way you feel when you talk and start you on the path to a healthier voice!

Vocal Exercise Number 1: Straw and Water Exercise

This exercise is the gentlest form of vocal massage as it puts the vocal folds in the most optimum position to produce sound. When you hurt a muscle in your body, a massage is often the first thing you think of to ease discomfort, and the voice is no different. For this exercise, you will need a glass of water and a straw. Place the straw in the water and blow bubbles in it while producing sound. Sliding through multiple pitches smoothly is a great way to massage your vocal cords. You can do this as often as you like but if you are suffering from vocal fatigue, 5 times a day, spread throughout the day is a great start!

Vocal Exercise Number 2: Steaming

Steaming is a great way to bring down any swelling on the vocal cords. Swelling occurs when the muscle is trying to protect itself, so we want to try to keep that down if possible. For this, you will need a bowl (to avoid burning plastic, let’s stick with glass or metal!) and a towel. Pour boiling water into the bowl, place your head over it, and cover your head and the bowl with your towel. Breathe in and out, alternating between nose and mouth for about 20 minutes three times a day until your voice feels like it’s back to normal. Don’t forget to press play on your favorite podcast to ensure optimum vocal health. 

Okay fine, that’s not technically part of the exercise, but we all love a good podcast, right? 

Good Vocal Hygiene Habits to Keep Your Voice Healthy

vocal hygiene habits

Even if you haven’t experienced any of the above problems, if you are a podcaster, singer, presenter, or even just using your voice for prolonged periods of time, you need to know how to keep it healthy. If you want to be able to speak beautifully and clearly without experiencing fatigue and strain, then you need to create good vocal habits. And I’ve 3 good vocal hygiene habits to share with you today.

Always Warm Up Your Voice

Warming your voice up before recording is imperative to keep it protected. Semi-occluded exercises are best to warm up and strengthen the vocal cords. These particular exercises create pressure above the vocal cords to negate pressure from below. In layman’s terms, semi-occluded exercises take pressure off the larynx and put pressure on your mouth instead. You can use consonants such as an ‘S’ sound with any vowels or you can even do these using lip trills. Your warm-up should be 10-15 minutes long and no longer – warming up too much can be harmful, too. 

When should you warm up your voice?

If you use your voice for a living, you should be practicing these exercises frequently to keep that muscle active and healthy. I recommend warming up before every podcast recording session and doing a gentle cool-down afterward. If you want to improve your stamina and increase your range, practicing these exercises a few times a week is a great idea. They are easily incorporated into any routine so why not try to do them while cooking dinner or doing research on your next podcast guest?

Pro tip: You can even use your straw and water exercises as part of a warm-up!

Focus On Your Breathing

It is also important to be aware of how you breathe when speaking. Try to breathe in low and avoid letting your shoulders and chest rise when you inhale. Don’t overthink it, it’s easier than it sounds! By the end of a sentence, you shouldn’t be collapsed in your core. If you feel like you are squeezing out the final words of your sentences or running out of air, you’re probably breathing too high up and are likely collapsing. To avoid this, keep your spine straight and your abdominals activated. Imagine that you are growing instead of slouching as you speak.

Sitting or standing upright and activating (not crunching) the abdominals and obliques will make breathing correctly and speaking with air much easier! Make sure to allow air to flow through the vocal folds and ensure you are supporting correctly. During periods of fatigue, or before and after lots of speaking, avoid speaking on the phone, sending voice recordings, or creating voice memos, as you are less likely to support properly when doing so. Podcasters, take a step back from your mic for a little while!

Practice Vocal Mindfulness for Good Vocal Health

Finally, and most importantly, it is imperative to be mindful of your voice in general. How does it feel when you speak? When does your voice feel most tired? When do you feel discomfort (if any) and can you identify what triggers it? Keeping a food diary can also help you figure out what foods cause you reflux. If you feel you suffer from chronic vocal fatigue, or cannot relieve pain and discomfort after making these changes, further action is needed. If this is the case, we advise you to see an ENT specialist to rule out more permanent damage. But don’t worry, most things can be repaired and you should be back behind your mic in no time!

BONUS! Here is a free downloadable food diary template just for you! 

Make Your Vocal Health a Priority

Protecting your voice is no easy task. It requires a lot of dedication, discipline, and mindfulness. But it is so important for your quality of life! You only get one voice. Make sure you look after it! I want to keep listening to your podcast and hear those beautifully healthy vocal folds doing their work! You can be in control of the health of your voice! My goal is to help you feel empowered by this post and maybe even seek out vocal coaching to assist in your vocal journey. If you are someone who uses their voice for work, experiences any discomfort or vocal fatigue, or even if you are just someone looking to improve their vocal health and stamina, now is the time to start!

  1. St Olaf College: Resting Your Voice
  3. Flypaper: How to Hydrate Your Voice So It Stays Healthier Longer
  4. John Hopkins Medical: GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn)
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