In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month:
Vocal hygiene isn’t something we constantly think about, but it’s important for preventing voice disorders such as laryngitis and laryngeal carcinoma (cancer of the larynx and vocal folds). After all, we use and abuse our voices so frequently that we do need to take precautions to protect them.
One thing all people are guilty of is clearing his/her throat. Bad idea. How fast do you think your vocal folds slam into each other when you do that? Think about it, the answer is at the end of this post. Healthier alternatives to clearing your throat are swallowing, taking a sip of water, and clearing your throat silently/without your vocal folds touching (which an SLP can teach you).
I understand that teachers feel the need to yell at their classes to get their attention when they’re too loud but this is technically breaking two rules of vocal hygiene at once! You should limit talking in loud environments and you should be within 3 feet of the listener when you speak. From personal observations, I can tell you that yelling won’t make kids want to listen to you anyway, so there really is no point. Sometimes it causes the kids to get even louder to talk over your yelling! So instead, to grab their attention, try flickering the lights or clapping your hands a couple times. Teach them these are signals for them to pay attention to.
Eliminate or reduce smoking, alcohol, and caffeine. Not much to explain here, smoke is a known cancer causer. This has to do with the inhalation of pollutants in general, so second-hand smoke is equally harmful. Caffeine can dehydrate you, so combat this by drinking plenty of water.
Answer: Vocal folds slam into each other at speeds of about 70 miles per hour when you clear your throat!