Throat mucus can stop your vocals in their tracks. The thick secretions from chronic mucus monsters affect voice quality and voice control. Throat clearing helps temporarily, but....
...the monster quickly returns. Habitual clearing makes the problem even worse. Chronic, persisting thick mucus is often caused by upper esophagus irritation (such as reflux) allergies, asthma, or other bio irritants. This level usually requires some medical intervention. Temporary mucus accumulation has many causes. A partial list includes dehydration, food sensitivities, air born irritants, inhalers, poor air quality and the residuals from colds and upper respiratory infections.
- Treating mucus problems is a challenge. Treatments include sipping water, throat steaming, medications, throat sprays and teas, lozenges, hot lemon drinks, lemon drops. The most recent home remedy I heard was to sip pineapple juice as hot as is tolerable. What are your special treatments for your throat monsters? Email me at the Fairview Voice Center firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll list them here at the Voice Care Network site.
- Avoid caffeine, drink 8 glasses of water per day, don't eat/drink dairy and drink ginger lemon tea for colds. These are a few of the dogmatic suggestions I've heard during the past week. There probably is some truth to these, for some people. There is a study that showed a 60% increase in upper esophagus reflux (if the subject already had reflux) with caffeinated versus decaffeinated coffee. The "truth" of 8 glasses of water has been repeated for eons. Some people would bloat and float away with that much! Eating dairy products often causes increased throat mucus-for many. Does it for you? Ginger is used to soothe digestion, not for sore throats. But it might feel good for YOUR cold, or it might burn YOUR throat. Self monitor and get to know you and your responses. Then decide what goes into your body.
- Do you know your voice injury thresholds? Voice injury threshold is the point during voice use at which you begin to experience negative sounds and sensations. How long can you sing, talk, teach or direct before your throat fatigues or your voice quality becomes hoarse? Knowing this information about yourself will help you plan and schedule your voice activities. Dr. Douglas Hicks from Cleveland Clinic, says people have different thresholds. Many factors affect the threshold, including age, larynx structure and genetics. Thats why we ask Why can he sing all night with no problem, and I feel fatigued after an hour? The good news is many of the factors can be changed with efficient voice use, attention to voice health and careful conditioning.
- Persisting nasal congestion is a pesky problem for voice. It interferes with sound quality, block sounds from resonating appropriately (especially when phonating m,n,ng) and increases effort of the larynx and vocal folds, as they struggle to produce normal sound waves. Mouth breathing occurs, causing drying of mouth and throat tissues.
- Dr. Oleg Froymovich, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician in Minneapolis, suggests using over the counter saline nasal sprays for mild nasal stuffiness. Examination by your ENT is indicated for more severe and chronic problems. Before you go to the appointment, observe your nasal symptoms carefully. Do they vary by time of day, season or location? Are secretions present? What improves the symptoms? Untreated chronic nasal congestion can contribute to other voice problems over time. The repeated forcing of the vocal folds and larynx to push sound past nasal obstruction can cause vocal fold irritation, swelling and nodules.
- If you have seasonal allergies, this season might be a tough one. The snow melted early and fast, leaving snow mold in its wake and exposing the ground and grass. This is a good time to review your allergy symptoms. Do you respond to allergens with watery, runny, itchy eyes and nose? Do you respond with a swollen plugged nose and an airway the size of a straw? Do you cough and sneeze? Get to know YOUR allergy responses so you can be accurate with your allergist. There are nasal sprays and oral inhalers, medications and other treatments. The more precise you are, the more precise the treatment can be. Drink extra water. Try nasal washes such as Neti pots or squeeze bottles (ask your allergist). Air conditioning can be an ally for some singers during the 30-40 minutes before the concert or performance. Happy Spring. It has sprung!
- Plan ahead to prevent voice problems and vocal injuries. We are most vulnerable during times of little sleep and high stress. Decide long in advance what you will do if you get sick before the big holiday concert. How will you handle a laryngitis attack before that important solo? Who can help? Who can fill in? What is your Ear, Nose Throat physicians clinic number? Do you have needed allergy medications and management strategies ready to go during the spring musical season?
- Many vocal injuries occur because music educators, choral conductors and singers proceed in spite of being too ill to safely do so. Be prepared!
- If your voice feels tired during the teaching/singing day try these: Go blah for 5 seconds throughout the day. Stop, be silent, let your tongue and throat area relax and inhale-exhale a good breath. If the muscles around the larynx and front of the neck feel sore you might be forcing your voice. Stop, and massage upward slowly on each side of the larynx. Then continue teaching with a more relaxed easy sensation.
- Most voice problems are not due to faulty breath support. Whispery gaps when talking or singing, a need to push/force those upper notes or loss of several high notes are signs of vocal cord injury. Reduce vigorous voice use, stay hydrated and add some silent periods in your day (even 5 minutes here and there throughout the day helps). If your symptoms do not clear in several days, or return with regularity, seek help from your physician as soon as possible.
- Give your voice a jump start every day. Try a morning warm up for those sleepy vocal cords. Breathe the shower steam and do a big yawn-sigh. Then hum long and steady at 2-3 pitches. Then do the same with who, and finally with huh. Use the same sounds and slideglide slowly, smoothly high. Then slide-glide low. Dont worry about the specific pitch. This is just for flexibility before you start your voice day. Feel your voice waking up. HMMMM. WOW.
- Balance heavy voice use with voice rest periods. For every hour of athletic voice use plan 10 minutes of an activity which does not require voice use.
February 20, 2012