Vocal Care in a Virtual Reality

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Regardless of your age group, it is likely that you have participated in a significant number of virtual classes, meetings, and family video calls over the past several months. The demands on your voice to stay connected with your colleagues, friends and family are likely higher than ever before. 

Whatever your circumstances, we all rely on our voices to communicate and participate in the world around us. And when your voice is overused, a loss of voice these days may result in more than just a week of laryngitis. So how do we typically push our voices too far, and how can we take better care of ourselves as the virtual demands keep increasing? 

Be alert! You may be engaging in “vocal abuse” behaviours such as:

  • not staying hydrated throughout the day
  • breathing in or ingesting irritants (such as caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or smoke)
  • experiencing ongoing allergic reactions or gastro reflux
  • already having a weakened vocal system due to a previous cold, coughing or throat clearing
  • consistently speaking too loudly or at an inappropriate pitch

Just as likely, you may be impacted by the environment and equipment around you:

  • using a headset that doesn’t have a good microphone 
  • speaking over and above a noisy background
  • speaking in a location with poor acoustics (echos or reverberations)
  • sitting for long periods of time with poor posture, causing strain on your neck, shoulders, and back 
  • using inefficient breathing patterns
  • having multiple virtual meetings throughout the day with few or no breaks

Vocal misuse can lead to changes in the quality of your voice: 

  • your voice may become hoarse, breathy or strained in quality
  • speaking may become uncomfortable or painful
  • experiencing breaks in your ability to maintain sounds
  • reduction in your vocal range (restrictions in raising or lowering your pitch)

What to do and who to see:

It’s important to take care of your voice. It’s the only one you’ve got! See an ENT if you are experiencing any of these symptoms to identify if medical issues have developed such as irritation or swelling of the vocal cords, or developing vocal cord bumps called nodules. Therapy with a Speech Language Pathologist will identify how you use and misused your voice, create a comprehensive treatment plan to maintain good vocal hygiene, and work with you to modify your behaviours and environment. As we rely on our voices more than ever these days, stay healthy as you stay connected with the world around you.

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