LiveSmart: Wintertime Can Wreak Havoc on Your Voice

[This piece was written by Michele August, MS, CCC-SLP, Supervisor of Speech Pathology for St. Peter’s Hearing and Speech.]

It is common knowledge a lot of people are prone to dry skin in the winter, thanks to the low humidity in the air. But did you know that dry winter air can dry out your mucous membranes as well? It can leave you with aggravated sinuses, a scratchy throat, and dry vocal cords that can affect your voice.

Along with the whipping winds outside, the winter heat in your home, at work, and in your car can have a pronounced drying effect on your vocal cords. Dry vocal cords can become raspy, strained and take extra effort to vibrate when you speak.

Illnesses such as colds and sore throats also can have an impact on your voice. The accompanying cough and post nasal drip can irritate the vocal folds, restrict lung function, and inflame the nose, which all impact your vocal quality.

Coughing and throat clearing over any length of time, whether from a cold or allergies, can cause the vocal cords to be irritated and sore. This effects how the vocal cords will vibrate while singing or talking.

Commonly used allergy medication can also have negative effects on your vocal cords. Over the counter antihistamines such as Allegra and Zyrtec get absorbed throughout your entire body and dry up mucus, especially in your throat.

Caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, soda can also lead to your body becoming more dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, it will dry out your voice, as well.

Hydration is key to maintaining a healthy voice. Tips to ensure your body is well-hydrated include:

  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. Hydration assists to bring more moisture through the body, especially to your vocal cords. Water is also critical to help circulate white blood cells and nutrients.
  • Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is important to help prevent your body from getting sick.
  • Exercise reduces stress, which can have an impact on your overall health and vocal quality.
  • Eat a balanced diet with a wide array of vitamins.
  • Consume alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, and soda in moderation.
  • In the winter, add extra moisture to the air in your home with the use of a humidifier.

If you find you are having persistent issues with your voice, schedule an appointment with your physician. They may recommend a visit to a speech therapist, who can help you identify things in your environment that may be causing vocal stress. A trained speech therapist can help you learn to breathe properly and speak naturally, using the proper pitch and volume, as well as train you when to rest your voice.

St. Peter’s Hearing and Speech (1240 New Scotland Rd., Suite 100 in Slingerlands) provides comprehensive and innovative diagnostic and rehabilitation services for language or speech and swallowing disorders for people of all ages. For information, call (518) 475-1818.

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