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0769 – Why African Elephants In Underpants May Be Hurting Your Voice

Season 3, Ep. 769
2023.02.08 – 0769 – Why African Elephants In Underpants May Be Hurting Your Voice  VowelsSay the following phrase aloud, word by word: “African. Elephants. In. Our. Underpants”. Each word begins with a vowel, A, E, I, O and U. And as we saw before, it’s these sounds that are made with a lot of potential pressure on the larynx. Say “African” again and you will feel that the initial sound is quite harsh (unlike, say “European” which is more of a gliding first sound), as the air that has for a split second been held back, now blasts past the vocal folds (‘pressed phonation’ or ‘hard onset’). The sense of holding back the air before these sounds is because of ‘sub-glottal pressure’, that is the pressure that is under (‘sub’) your vocal folds and it’s a small version of the extreme pressure that you use when you consciously close your vocal cords before you lift something heavy. Try it!  ‘Aspirate phonation’ (or ‘balanced onset’) sends more air through the vocal folds and is kinder to them such as making a ‘sigh’ sound, a breathy, throaty ‘hum’. Now, try putting a ‘silent-h’ sound at the start of each word in our phrase above, so that you glide into each initial vowel rather than ‘attacking’ it. Give it breath rather than pressure: “(h)african. (h)elephants. (h)in. (h)our. (h)underpants”. Hear and feel how this is stopping your vocal folds slamming together.  Now obviously we have looked at the extremes of the spectrum from hard, stabbing attack to an airy, breathy and light sound. You will need to find and practice a happy balance between air and muscle, to help reduce the pressure and potential damage to your folds. 

0767 – How A Kettle Can Help Your Voice

Season 3, Ep. 767
2023.02.06 – 0767 – How A Kettle Can Help Your Voice Steam inhaling - can help the health of the vocal folds and the mucous membranes that line the nasal and mouth cavities. Steaming once or twice a day for 10-15 minutes will:·        allow the water vapour to get into places that no lozenge, gargle or linctus can ever reach, soothing and moisturising and helping to thin the mucus, so it’s more slippery·        help relieve a tired sore or hoarse voice·        calm an irritating persistent cough·        improve your ‘voice recovery rate’ after a cold·        be useful as a ‘night-time moisturiser’ after you have used your voice heavily in a noisy or smoky environmentSo, what’s going on here? Well, dryness adds to vocal strain and can cause a cough and heavy voice-use creates tension. But the steam puts moisture into the whole throat area, thinning thick mucus, increasing flexibility and encouraging relaxation and so, healing.[1] Similar to a steamer, a nebuliser is a machine that turns liquid medicine into a fine mist. You then breathe in the mist through a mask or mouthpiece. Ask a medical professional whether a .9% isotonic saline solution, which matches the make-up of solutions in the body and so gets to larynx, might be useful for any vocal problem you have. [1] Inexpensive steam-inhaling mugs are much easier to use than the hot, claustrophobic and boring “head over a basin with a towel” method. You use just boiled water, add a decongestant if you have a cold (real lemon juice is OK but not artificial fragrances), and then breathe normally, through the nose or mouth for 10-15 minutes replacing the water once the steam has gone. (Electrical steam inhalers such as pump out a steady stream of steam.) Impractical? Inhale while taking a hot shower, like in the scene in ‘Terms of Endearment’ (Debra Winger is in the bathroom next to the hot shower, as her child has a bad cough and she’s trying to use the steam to help them breathe more easily). 

0764 – How Meds Can Hurt Not Help Your Voice

Season 3, Ep. 764
 2023.02.03 – 0764 – How Meds Can Hurt Not Help Your Voice Medications – Again, sticky-sweet, tongue colour-changing over-the-counter lozenges do not touch your vocal cords. Although they might have a placebo effect (you feel as though they are helping, and so your confidence returns), the ones with anaesthetic or numbing properties may actually be causing further damage, giving you a false sense that everything’s OK. Instead, focus on the root cause of your vocal fatigue by practising with a vocal routine. Other medications can affect your voice too:·        Inhalers and steroid sprays·        Antihistamines (such as hay fever remedies) can also dehydrate·        Antibiotics·        Antidepressants ·        Oral contraceptives ·        The menthol in some cold remedies may be an irritant ·        Decongestant meds for nose and throat problems often work by drying out the local tissues. That’s obviously not good news. If you have a cold and a subsequently blocked nose, you may have a dried-out nose caused by your meds and a dried-out mouth caused by having to use it for breathing. Therefore, it’s essential that you take plenty of fluids. Alternative medication may include:·        water, gargling and sleep are free·        steam – is cheap·        mindfulness – takes just minutes·        warm pineapple juice – some find that this can help soothe a throat

0763 – How Your Voice Is Affected By Oestrogen, Progesterone and Androgens

Season 3, Ep. 763
2023.02.02 – 0763 – How Your Voice Is Affected By Oestrogen, Progesterone and Androgens  Menopause can also affect the voice.[1] Vocally speaking, oestrogen:·        affects how supple the vocal folds’ upper surface (the mucosal layer) is·        supports the folds’ mucus-making glands·        affects the deepest layer of the vocal folds, which produce lower and higher pitchesblocks the effects of androgens, and so prevents the lowering of the voice Progesterone balances the effects of oestrogen as well as:·        causing decreased and thickened secretions of the outer layer of the vocal folds, resulting in drier vocal folds Androgens, including testosterone, which are naturally secreted in women’s bodies, can:·        cause the vocal folds to thicken, which lowers your pitch·        increase dryness of the vocal folds due to changes in the glands that secrete fluids near the vocal folds​. During menopause hormones may fluctuate day to day, making the voice sound unpredictable, unreliable and unstable:·        vocal cord swelling, resulting in less range and a general lower voice·        a drier mouth which may lead to more throat clearing·        reflux·        a ‘lump in the throat’ sensation·        excess or thicker mucus·        vocal fatigue from vocal cord muscle weakness impacting agility, power and projection in your voice·        pain in the throat or neck Don’t force your voice but try more warming up techniques (see later) to make your voice feel easier. [1] Lots more information in this video: