Vicious Cycle of Vocal Abuse

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on October 8, 2019

The news cycle is moving right now with an intensity we rarely see.  Network anchors and correspondants are working hard not just on the air but off as they talk to sources and update information.  And it’s not likely to slow down for months.  This means extra vocal care is needed.

There are some speaking situations like broadcasting breaking news for days on end or having to put in extra time narrating an audio book that are perfect set ups for what’s called the “vicious cycle of vocal abuse.”  This ominous-sounding cycle is what happens when you have to talk more than usual (and possibly more loudly) and don’t think you can stop and rest your voice. At first you might get a little hoarse, and that’s when the cycle begins.

When you are hoarse and continue to talk you have to force your voice, which makes you even hoarser, and on and on.

Not many of us would run a marathon with tight shoes and continue running the next day despite the blisters and calluses that had developed.  All too often, however, we may insist we have to keep talking even with a hoarse voice.  By doing so, we are damaging our vocal folds (cords), which produce the sound waves of speech in the same way we would damage our feet by running when they are red and swollen. If you’re not squeamish, click here to take a look at vocal folds at work.

Talking while you’re hoarse can have long-lasting effects and may cause permanent damage to the delicate vocal fold (cord) tissue.

Vocal rest is the best treatment for hoarseness and vocal fatigue along with hydration (click here to read more on hydration). It’s better to take time off for vocal rest when you first become hoarse instead of falling into the vicious cycle of vocal abuse.  It’s like the old saying, “Pay me now or pay me later.”  At some point, you’re going to have to rest your throat.

I know you’re thinking that vocal rest is impossible when you make a living with your voice.  Every client reacts the same way.  What I tell them is to only talk when they must, like at the anchor desk or when recording.  The rest of the time, use writing to communicate.  And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!  A day or two like this can give your vocal folds time to heal. If hoarseness persists longer than two weeks, see your doctor.

Since your vocal folds are so important to your future as a broadcaster or voiceover artist, I suggest you take steps to take care of your throat as soon as you feel hoarseness developing.  Take hoarseness seriously.  Remember that your job depends on your voice so take care of it!

My new e-book, BROADCASTER’S SURVIVAL GUIDE, is now available for only $4.99.  You’ll get great information in this e-book on how to deal with stress and keep your body healthy so you can sound your best!  And don’t be fooled by “broadcaster’s” in the title.  It’s great for voiceover artists, too.

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