June 14th, 2024

Speech expert says give your voice a break

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman For the Lethbridge Herald on May 29, 2021.

University of Alberta vocal health experts and speech-language pathologists are advising the public to stay hydrated, use microphones and stop clearing their throats when it feels dry, as this can damage their vocal cords.
Trying to make ourselves heard through masks, shields, distance, and sometimes all of them combined is having a big impact on our voices, even if we don’t realize it.
Teresa Hardy, a speech language pathologist with Alberta Health Services and instructor for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta, said that there are many factors that can contribute to voice difficulties.
“As we have been going through this pandemic for over a year, we noticed that there are some novel challenges to the voice that many people don’t know about, because sometimes they take their voice for granted. It has always worked for them, so why would now be any different?” said Hardy.
There are many factors that contribute to voice difficulties, many that are pre-existing, but five that are new or worse because of the pandemic, she said.
Firstly is the use of personal protective equipment impeding the voice from being projected.
The second is making a bigger effort to project our voices and causing strain on our vocal cords.
The third is the different respiratory patterns experienced from using masks.
The fourth factor that contributes to voice difficulties is social distancing, as the distance makes it even harder for our voice to be heard.
And the last contributing factor that Hardy mentioned is virtual meetings, as the use of built-in microphones, trying to speak over background noise, and sitting away from the computer has people trying to overcompensate for their voice. People are trying to project their voice with more intensity to be able to be heard over others in a meeting, or over the everyday sounds of working from home..
“If we are using our voice too much, or with too much intensity or with too much force, it can become fatigued and that can create voice difficulties like voice quality changes, and sometimes the voice won’t last all day,” added Hardy.
One thing that Hardy recommends is to give our voice a break. She said that silence is golden, while mentioning that we need to find a way to stop using our voice even for a few minutes every once in a while, every day.

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