Students often come in with concerns about ways to keep their voice healthy. It's both an easy yet complex question to answer. An ENT is the absolute best person to consult on this matter and I recommend frequent checkups to make sure your voice is healthy. However, here are some tips that may help you navigate this important question, keeping in mind this is no substitute for sound medical advise.
(1) NEVER sing if your voice hurts or is not in good condition for whatever reason. If during your singing sessions you notice a decline in vocal quality as the session progresses or overall in recent months, this is a sign of vocal trauma. Repeated and sustained vocal trauma may result in irreparable damage to your vocal chords. The cause of this vocal trauma is likely technical in nature but could be due to a number of things such as singing too long (over 1 hour without resting). If you are experiencing frequent vocal fatigue please rest your voice, seek vocal advice from a knowledgeable classical vocal technician, and make an appointment for a vocal checkup with your physician.
(2) Care for your body as a whole. Your voice is part of your body and can only be as healthy as you are. Any kind of smoking, drug use, moderate to extreme alcohol consumption, or even stress and sleep loss will negatively impact your voice. Be mindful that anything from hormonal imbalances to vitamin deficiencies to weight fluctuations will show their first signs on your voice. Exercising, eating a healthy and balanced diet, abstaining from drug use and excessive alcohol consumption, getting at least 8-9 hours of sleep every night, getting all your essential vitamins and nutrients, practicing a balanced lifestyle will put your on the way to better vocal health.
I'd like to take the time to highlight the fact that all drugs, including over-the-counter, prescription, and even holistic medicines can have an impact on your voice, some more dramatic than others. IBUProfen is one example that can actually have serious consequences. Use of anti-inflammatories, such as Advil, can increase the risk of a vocal hemorrhage a full seven (7) days after taking it. The safest thing to do when you are a professional voice user is to not take these medications. The second safest thing is to take Tylenol for pain and preferably not use your voice if possible. This is simply one example of over-the-counter medications posing a risk and/or temporarily altering your voice. Please research and discuss with your doctor ANY medication's impact on the voice that you plan on taking and pay attention to how your voice feels on this medication. Everyone is different.
Acid reflux is a singer's arch enemy. It literally burns your vocal cords. Please be mindful of which foods may cause a negative or positive impact and adjust your diet accordingly. PPIs may be used in extreme cases but may cause other negative health problems. If possible, it is best to simply avoid foods that trigger reflux, especially before singing. It is not suggested to eat or drink excessively at least 2 hours before singing. Please be aware that alcohol, especially red wine, usually causes some degree of reflux.
(3) Last but NOT least, do not forget your good vocal habits outside of your vocal sessions. Just as much vocal trauma can be caused by incorrect speech habits, frequent screaming, talking loudly at parties, bars, and clubs, or over-use of the voice in general. A job that requires you to speak on the phone all day, young children screaming on the playground, and young adults frequenting loud venues are all vunerable to vocal damage from repeated exposure to these situations. Avoiding these dangerous situations, consulting with a speech therapist, and applying your healthy vocal techniques during these times can minimize your risk of trauma.
Overall, to keep you vocal cords healty, pay attention to your voice and your body; be mindful of what you're putting into your body and how you are using your voice throughout the day. Please email me anytime to discuss your concerns over healthy voice practices at firstname.lastname@example.org.