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Our voices are the primary method with which many of us express ourselves to the world. However, often we don’t realise that in order to maintain the functioning of our voices, we need to look after our voices just as we look after the other parts of our body. The delicate network that makes up our ‘voice box’ lie within a structure called the larynx, which sits at the front of our throat. Our larynx houses our vocal cords (also known as the vocal folds), which are thin mucous membranes that stretch horizontally across our airways. These delicate structures vibrate from bottom to top as we exhale, modulating and manipulating the airflow to create sound waves.

Not surprisingly, this complex system can become disrupted when the voice is used the wrong way. Overusing and straining our voices, yelling, screaming or shouting for prolonged periods of time, inhaling dust, smoke, or other irritants, and violent coughing or habitual throat clearing are all behaviours that can contribute to vocal cord dysfunction.

These vocally abusive behaviours have the potential to cause trauma to the vocal folds, and subsequently change how our voices sound. Some common vocal fold conditions that can affect people from all walks of life include vocal nodules, vocal polyps, vocal fold paralysis, and muscle tension dysphonia.

What can we do to reduce the impact of vocally abusive behaviours? Easy! Here are some simple strategies we recommend putting into practice to help minimise our chances of vocal disorders:

  • Avoid shouting, screaming, or excessive loud talking, especially for prolonged periods;
  • Avoid talking over high noise levels;
  • Remember to stay hydrated;
  • Avoid excess environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke and dust;
  • Don’t smoke! Smoking can be the single most harmful behaviour to the vocal cords;
  • Gently warm up the voice if you intend to use it for long or intense periods by gently humming;
  • Schedule regular ‘vocal rest’ times throughout the day where you take a break from talking;
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle;
  • Know your voice – be familiar with your normal voice so that any changes can be detected.

Have concerns? You should make an appointment with your GP, Speech Pathologist or Ear Nose and Throat Specialist if:

  • Your voice sounds different to how it usually sounds, especially if this persists for a period of time;
  • Your voice sounds hoarse or rough for an extended period (2-3 weeks);
  • Producing voice and talking requires more energy;
  • People ask about your voice or comment negatively on how it sounds.

Therapy Alliance Group, in conjunction with Dr Suresh Mahendran and his team at the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, Toowoomba have joined forces to offer a new type of service for the Toowoomba region – The Voice and Swallow Clinic. This clinic offers clients a joint consult with Dr Mahendran and one of our Speech Pathologists to determine the history and potential causes of vocal disorders, and begin treatment to help you find your optimal voice. If you would like more information, contact Therapy Alliance Group on 1300 661 945 or The Ear Nose and Throat Clinic on (07) 4646 2525.

We have Speech Language Pathology appointments available in BeenleighChinchilla, Caboolture and Toowoomba.  We also do consults via video conference with TeleTAGBook a phone consult now to discuss your specific therapy needs!

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