Theres a reason to stay calm and quiet when you speak. Constant yelling and screaming is the most common cause of voice damage. Moreover, nervousness and tension can compound vocal abuse.Each of us has a natural or optimal pitch level that provides the most amount of sound for the least amount of effort. This optimal pitch level should be your habitual pitch level. If it isnt, you may be misusing your voice. One way to check your pitch level is to say "um-hum" naturally. Then say "um-hum-one," "um-hum two." Is the pitch of the "um-hums" the same as the numbers? Then thats your natural pitch level.The physical production of sound is the most rapid and complex of all muscular activities in our bodies. Hoarseness or laryngitis; a squeaky, foggy, breathy, or nasal voice; a voice that is too high or too low, too loud or too soft, or habitually breaks are all indications of vocal-cord abuse and could lead to more serious medical problems.Consistent vocal stress can lead to the development of a teardrop- shaped growth on the vocal cords called a polyp. Alternatively, scar tissue (or nodules) can form on the vocal cords, infrequently, contact ulcerations or granuloma can develop. Generally, all these are benign conditions that can be treated.
Vocal rest is probably the simplest and most effective way to minimize vocal stress, but here are some other pointers on avoiding laryngitis or loss of voice:
Always speak in a moderate tone and volume, even in noisy situations.
Dont make a habit of screaming or yelling.
If you smoke, stop. Cigarettes are a major cause of cancer of the larynx, of which the chief sign is hoarseness.
Try to avoid being directly under or in front of an air conditioner for long period of time. Home heating units can also dry out the air and cause vocal strain.
If stress is hurting your vocal cords, a simple relaxing exercise is to yawn and then sigh.
If vocal problems continue, however, voice therapy may be needed. In such cases, consult your doctor.
Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of "Ten Days to Detox: How to Look and Feel A Decade Younger."
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