According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), the association representing America’s ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors, many Americans believe that “keeping their voice healthy” is the biggest obstacle a singer on American Idol has to overcome, over dealing with the judges or overcoming stage fright. Americans also strongly agree about the steps necessary to maintaining a healthy voice. The survey results coincide with World Voice Day, which is celebrated on April 16.
In a national survey of over 1,000 American adults, participants were asked “which one of the following things do you think are the biggest obstacle a singer on American Idol has to overcome once they make it to the finals in Hollywood?” The vast majority responded that keeping a healthy voice was the most difficult obstacle:
- 54 percent of American adults responded “keeping their voice healthy”
- 15 percent responded “dealing with the judges”
- 13 percent said “overcoming stage fright”
- 12 percent said “learning and remembering words to the song”
Participants were also asked to comment on whether they thought certain steps were important to maintaining a healthy voice. Surprisingly, the three direct uses of one’s voice – not screaming or yelling, using a microphone, and warming up a voice – were the three items viewed as less important. By contrast, more than 90 percent of Americans ranked the following steps as important: not smoking, paying attention to hoarseness in your voice, breathing appropriately, drinking plenty of water.
“In this era of e-mail, texting and even twittering, there is no substitute for the genuine qualities of the human voice,” says Norman D. Hogikyan, M.D., AAO-HNS member and Professor and Chief of the Division of Laryngology, Rhinology and General Otolaryngology at the University of Michigan. “A healthy voice is not only vital to effective verbal communication, but is also our natural instrument for artistic expression. This year on World Voice Day, America’s otolaryngologists encourage people to “invest in your voice” by taking simple steps to increase your vocal capital and avoiding habits that can be harmful.”
World Voice Day gives vocal health experts the opportunity to highlight the magnitude of vocal health to the general public and to professionals who have built careers around their voices.
As AAO-HNS celebrates the seventh year of World Voice Day observance, ENT doctors offer some tips to keep in tip-top vocal shape:
- Drink plenty of water. Moisture is good for your voice. Hydration helps to keep thin secretions flowing to lubricate your vocal cords.
- Do not smoke and avoid places with excessive secondhand smoke.
- Try not to scream or yell. These are abusive practices for your voice, and put great strain on the lining of the vocal cords.
- Warm up your voice before heavy use. Warm-ups can be simple, such as gently gliding from low to high tones on different vowel sounds, doing lip trills (like the motorboat sound that kids make), or tongue trills.
- Use good breath support. Breath flow is the power for voice. Take time to fill your lungs before starting to talk, and don’t wait until you are almost out of air before taking another breath to power your voice.
- Use a microphone. When giving a speech or presentation, consider using a microphone to lessen the strain on your voice.
- Listen to your voice when it is complaining to you. Know that you need to modify and decrease your voice use if you become hoarse to allow your vocal cords to recover. Pushing your voice when it’s already gruff can lead to significant problems. If your voice is hoarse frequently, or for an extended period of time, you should be evaluated.
In addition to these suggestions, new tools created for the 2009 observance include: fact sheets on vocal health, a World Voice Day podcast, a radio public service announcement, “See the Voice” video, an interactive vocal health quiz, and more.