Voice refers to the ability to engage in meaningful conversation, and to make a difference or impact upon key decisions. Our voice allows us to express our views, thoughts and feelings, as well as influence outcomes and manipulate contexts with words we speak.
Our tone, pitch, quality of articulation and inflection deliver subtle messages about the kind of person we are, and these components convey our mood and our feelings at a particular time. Having the capacity to project appropriate sounds can make a critical difference in the way we are perceived and treated. Overuse or misuse of our voice can lead to vocal fatigue. We use our voice every day and so it is important that we look after it.
Strictly speaking, our voices don’t tire. Voice, after all, is air from the lungs shaped and carried in waves to the listener’s ear. Our structures that create the voice, however, can tire, work inefficiently or become damaged from overuse. Vocal fatigue is when the muscles of your larynx tire out and cause a feeling of pain.
A reduction in endurance, loudness control, pitch control as well as poor voice quality and an unstable sounding voice are often symptoms and complaints of individuals experiencing vocal fatigue.
Fatigue can be felt in the non-muscular laryngeal tissues surrounding the vocal folds. Individuals usually complain of dry mouth, a feeling of a ‘lump’ in the throat, shortness of breath, and that it takes effort to speak and maintain volume.
Infrequent or hard exercise makes our muscles ache. The same goes for muscles required for voice. The muscles around the ribs (intercostals) and abdomen expand and contract to provide breath for speaking. Loud or excessive talking may make these muscles tire. Some people then fall into the unhealthy habit of overusing muscles of the neck to “push” the voice. These little muscles can’t fully and consistently do the work of the big muscles of the abdomen and rib areas. Thus, the neck muscles are worn out before the working day is over.
When you feel your voice dragging at day’s end, consider:
Muscles tire as “good” chemicals (nutrients, etc.) are consumed and waste products (lactic acid) build up in muscle fibres. Our blood flow transports nutrients to muscle fibres and carries away lactic acid. Because our circulatory systems work constantly, chemicals exchange quickly, meaning we can recover from muscle fatigue fairly easily however, we can also implement vocal hygiene strategies to elevate or prevent fatigue.
Vocal hygiene involves taking steps to keep your vocal folds healthy and your voice strong and clear and can include:
Vocal fatigue is something everyone experiences, so it is important to be aware of how to look after our voice. However, if you feel that you have consistent symptoms of vocal fatigue, that it is painful to talk for long periods of time, that your voice (or lack of) is getting in the way of your job or livelihood, or that you had a cold or upper respiratory infection and your rough voice never went away, it is important to seek further advice from a speech pathologist.
At Generation Physio and Allied Health, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.
Article Written By Jessarna Jones
Speech and Language Pathologist – North Brisbane
Jessarna (or Jess for short) graduated from Southern Cross University (Gold Coast) with a Bachelor of Speech Pathology. Jess became a Speech Pathologist as she is passionate about helping people and loves watching her clients reach their goals.
She loves to work with people across a broad range of ages and presentation, with a special interest in the fields of voice, swallowing/ feeding and early language development. Jess is thrilled to be able to work with clients in their homes and communities as she feels therapy is most meaningful when delivered in a natural and comfortable setting.
Learn more about Jess here.