About ten years ago, I awoke with two things I never experienced before: a sinus, and ear infection. Neither my PCP, nor even an ENT could see me, so I drove to Emergency Department of my local office.
There was no quick remedy or pixie dust cure — In fact dust was one of the culprits – to alleviate my painful and congested sinuses. Diagnosis: myriad allergies dust mites, grass, dogs and cats. While I was equipped to forgo housework, no way I would give up my trusty canine, when a Neti pot, and Claritin were in abundance.
Later that spring, I was losing my voice. I blame it on yelling at growing boys. Nevertheless, it did create an impediment to working in voice over. Sessions were shorted, if not cancelled or postponed. There’s a word for a voice actor without a voice: Unemployed. So, to restore my money maker, I had to be smart, and act quickly.
Next stop: Vocal Rehab. Luckily, I live near Massachusetts General Hospital. Their renown Voice Center saves voices and careers, most notably Adele, Sam Smith, Steve Tyler and Julie Andrews. Better still, you don’t have to be a famous person to be treated by their amazing doctors, throat specialists, and speech pathologists.
After several months of speech therapy, some tips on responsible voice usage, and attention to diet, I recovered considerable vocal strength. Take care of your voice, and your voice will take care of you.
Here are a few ways to maintain a healthy speaking voice:
- Hydrate: Just as a runner’s muscles need constant watering, vibrating vocal cords, need to be balanced and lubricated. Limit alcohol and caffeine, certainly when you’re recording. Like to snack? Try apples, pears, and grapes, which contain lots of water are a great snack.
- Avoid fried foods, processed food and dairy. There are healthy and delicious dairy alternatives: coconut and almond milks and yogurts. I love soy, but it doesn’t love me back. Other foods that are known to cause allergies include eggs, nuts, wheat, shellfish.
- Take a vocal nap. Rest your voice. Read, stretch. Stay off the phone a while. A couple of hours of silence in your day is a good thing. Get down with your Zen self, and enjoy the quiet.
- Do I even have to say this? No smoking. Besides increasing your risk of throat cancer, inhaling smoke can hurt your vocal cords.
- Yelling, screaming, or whispering, all irritate your vocal cords, so always use your ‘inside’ voice. Vocal fry: Leave it to the Kardashians. If you consistently sound hoarse, you’re misusing your voice.
- Take a time out. Cold, flu, or infection? It’s your body telling you to take a break. Listen.
- Humidify A humidifier is a great addition to moisten the air, as long as you clean it with bleach every few days.
- Stay in your vocal range as much as you can. Pushing too high, or too low strains vocal muscles, and will, over time limit your range. And always remember to breathe.
We’ll circle back to the topic of vocal hygiene next season. Below is my recipe for ginger tea, the homebrew that keeps on giving. In the meantime, tell me how you care for your voice? What do you feed it? What do you avoid, or limit? Any home remedies? Share them here.
No matter what you do in voice over world, and outside it, your voice is important in expressing who you are, share views, thoughts and feelings with another person. Treat it as the precious instrument it is.
Can we talk about the benefits of ginger? It’s great during cold and flu season, because the root is warming. It’s great for sore throats, soothing for upset stomachs, and aids in digestion. You can even throw some in the bath to ease aches and pains. Plus it’s delicious. This is a simple recipe, and a go-to nearly all winter, and most of the year. Chill it. Add selzer, and you have custom crafted ginger ale.
¼ cup sliced ginger root
6 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp honey, or other sweetener
1-2 mint sprigs (optional)
In a pot, bring water and ginger to a boil. Cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Add lemon juice, (and mint) and let stand. Add sweetener to taste.
Several companies offer ginger tea bags, but why fool around? This stuff is seriously good.