Are you one of the growing number of people who suffers from chronic hoarseness, sore throats or even loss of voice? Vocal abuse, today, is a big concern and it cannot be solved until you discover what is causing your condition.
The problem for many people is that once they have been to the ENT specialist and learn that there is nothing physiologically wrong with their vocal apparatus, they are at a loss as to how to correct the problem.
Not talking for several weeks or months (if that were even possible for most us) may alleviate the symptoms, but unless you learn how to place your voice properly those symptoms will return in time. And, over time, they will get worse.
While some people can yell all day long without a problem, others find that after speaking for just two hours (for example at a convention), they have no voice left. Not only is the sound of our speaking voice as individual to each of us as are our fingerprints, so too, is our vocal endurance.
While watching my son play competitive soccer for many years, I listened to the goalies yelling directions to the players. Many of these teenagers will have suffered permanent damage to their vocal cords; others will not. Ethel Merman could ‘belt’ on Broadway for 60 years and never have a problem. Julie Andrews, on the other hand, a trained legitimate voice, did Broadway for a year when she was in her 60’s which resulted in permanent damage to her vocal cords. She will never sing again.
When we produce sound, compressed air in the lungs is drawn back through the trachea and into the voice box which contains a pair of vocal folds (cords). These folds are very thin membranes like puffs of tissue that come together and form a small slit or opening which vibrate when air passes between them, resulting in sound.
In addition to the voice box or larynx, however, we have four other cavities that should vibrate for the production of good sound: they are termed resonators and they include the chest, the throat, the mouth and the nose. Acting much like the resonating chambers of a musical instrument, these air cavities amplify the originating sound and modify it, producing our vowels.
Herein lies the problem. It is a medical fact that we are lazy or shallow breathers. What this means is that when we inhale, essentially we are filling only the upper portion of the chest. You can see this when the shoulders rise and the mid-torso region is sucked in – typical of those individuals who ‘think’ they are taking a deep breath. What they have done however is to fill only the upper portion of the chest, which actually leads to increased tension in the body.
Those who breathe properly, on the other hand, breathe with the support of the diaphragm, a muscular partition separating the chest from the abdomen in which the diaphragm moves down and out instead of up and in. Only when diaphragmatic breathing is instilled can you make use of that 5th resonating chamber, the entire chest – and what a large cavity that is in comparison to the other four resonators! You can immediately tell those people who are capitalizing on their diaphragm because they have a very warm, resonant sound like that of George Clooney and Diane Sawyer. Without the support of the diaphragm, however, the resonating chamber in the chest is non-existent; thus, only the other four resonators are actively working which is why so many people have voices that lack warmth, depth and good resonance.
Once your chest becomes your major sounding board, you will be able to increase your volume naturally, without shouting, thereby greatly reducing the wear and tear on your throat. In addition you will discover a number of other benefits of breathing with support: blood pressure drops, sleeping improves, tension is relieved; and, because you get better circulation, your life span could be increased by more than 4 years. It’s the most important thing I do – day in, day out.
Why not end vocal abuse today? Take the pressure off your voice box and let your chest do the talking!
Nancy Daniels is a voice specialist and president of Voice Dynamic as well as The Official SelfGrowth.com Guide to Public Speaking. Working privately and corporately, she launched Voicing It! in April of 2006, the only video training course on voice improvement. You can watch a clip from her DVD on her website, ‘before’ & ‘after’ takes of her clients, and gain other information on voice training at www.voicedynamic.com
Additional Resources covering Public Speaking can be found at: