Many people suffer from chronic hoarseness, sore throats and even loss of voice; and, most of these people do so because of misuse of the speaking voice. It is common; it is world wide; and, it is a growing concern.
Through the years that I’ve had a website on voice improvement, 40% of those emailing me tell me that they are experiencing some form of vocal abuse. My advice is to first see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose & throat specialist) to find out if there is something physiologically wrong with the vocal folds (cords), i.e., polyps or nodules on those delicate organs. If so, then you need to treat that condition.
While treating that condition, however, it would be a good idea to look at why that condition occurred. What activity or activities have you done in the past that led to the growths on or swelling of the vocal folds? Unless you change the behavior, chances are it will happen again. One of the reasons that polyps and nodules develop is because of misuse -- excessive wear and tear on the voice box and throat, excessive strain on the vocal folds.
While it is certainly good news if the doctor tells you that, aside from some redness, there is nothing physically wrong with your voice box and/or your throat, the bad news is that over time, the problems you are experiencing with your voice will only get worse and will possibly lead to serious and/or permanent damage to your vocal folds.
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. 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 take the pressure off your voice box and let your chest do the talking!