Back-to-school isn’t just for the students, teachers need to prepare, as well, by performing vocal warm-ups to keep their voice healthy during the school year, according to experts at Baylor College of Medicine.
“It is helpful to warm up the voice box prior to prolonged voice use,” said Dr. Julina Ongkasuwan, assistant professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at Baylor. “Make sure to be well hydrated before and during warm-up exercises.”
Diaphragmatic breathing, exercises to reduce muscle tension, articulation flexibility and tongue twisters are all part of vocal warm-ups.
“Diaphragmatic breathing provides full breath support, which results in greater air flow into the lungs to better support your voice,” said Felicia Carter, speech-language pathologist for the Institute for Voice and Swallowing at Baylor. “Good posture is essential for muscle range of motion.”
Articulation exercises will help improve diction, and incorporating tongue twisters into the exercises will help the individual recite the phrases without extra tension in the tongue, lips or jaw, she said.
“Less strain on the larynx while speaking means less vocal fatigue and decreased incidence of vocal lesions,” Ongkasuwan said.
Nodules, polyps and other lesions can appear from vocal overuse. If someone has polyps on their vocal folds, their voice may sound rough or raspy.
Ongkasuwan suggested that teachers build in time for voice rest while with students to prevent lesions and other voice problems. Her suggested classroom modifications include:
- Maintain good hydration
- Use visual outlines and handouts to decrease verbal repetition
- Use nonverbal cues, like ringing a bell or turning lights on and off, to gain attention
- Incorporate quiet reading, student projects and question/answer sessions into teaching style
- Run a humidifier
- Do not talk through a cold or laryngitis
Even without the presence of lesions, it can become painful to speak when using the incorrect musculature. Speech pathologists can massage these areas to loosen the muscles and provide voice therapy.
“Voice therapy is designed to directly address disorders of pitch, loudness, resonance and respiration,” Carter said. “The goal of voice therapy is to reduce or prevent a voice disorder by balancing the three subsystems of voice, which are respiration, phonation and resonance.”
Voice therapy includes vocal health and hygiene, techniques to reduce laryngeal area muscle tension, respiratory retraining, techniques to modify pitch and vocal function exercises.
Implementing these strategies may help improve overall vocal quality and health:
- Increase water intake
- Avoid mint or menthol throat lozenges
- Decrease caffeine intake
- Avoid shouting, talking over loud noise, screaming
- Eliminate smoking
- Adhere to acid reflux precautions