For a few months and due to COVID-19, mask use is mandatory whenever we are outside our home. Although the mask serves as a protective shield when communicating with others, so we don’t share bacteria or viruses with other people, it can have some negative consequences, such as having our voice damaged. The mask reduces the volume of our voice and distorts the sound of the words we use, so we are often forced to speak louder when we are using it. This continuous increase in the volume of the voice can cause the vocal cords to become irritated, and, if we do not take the necessary care, it can end in aphonia or dysphonia.

When we speak of aphonia, we mean to lose the voice completely; while dysphonia refers to the alteration of our vocal quality, pitch or volume. Some examples of dysphonia are hoarseness or the inability to speak or sing in the range that one is used to, and it can be secondary to different disorders, such as nodules.
 
Professions in which the voice is used are not only those related to singing, theatre or radio; also, a teacher, a receptionist or a telemarketer can be talking for hours every day, and although their voice could already be resented by its abuse, using a mask it may be even more affected.
 
Here are some tips for all those who want to take care of their voice a little more, and avoid unwanted vocal pathologies:

  1. Request the use of a microphone. If you work in a noisy place where you talk to people that are at a certain distance from you, if you can use a microphone with speakers, this will help your voice not to have to work so hard; remember that you are already making a special effort just by using a mask.
  2. Articulate more exaggeratedly. Before turning up your voice volume too much, try to over articulate so others can understand you better.
  3. Stay hydrated. Try to always carry a bottle of water with you and take small sips throughout the day. Drinking about two liters of water a day will help keeping your vocal cords lubricated and that they can vibrate properly. Avoid cold water, and if you notice dryness in your house, use a humidifier.
  4. Warm up your voice before working. Just as athletes warm up their muscles before a competition, our vocal cords will be more prepared for the effort of speaking at high volume for hours, if we have performed voice warm-up exercises. If you don;t know what exercises to do, request one or more vocal pathology prevention sessions with a speech therapist.
  5. Avoid using the phone . When we talk on the phone, we lose the body language and lip reading part of face-to-face communication, and we tend to speak louder. If you can, communicate by text message or try to make phone calls last as short as possible.
  6. Maintain vocal rest periods. The vocal cords, like any other muscle, also need to rest. Try to be silent for long periods of time, especially after finishing work.
  7. Remember to relax and get plenty of rest. Sleeping at least six hours a day also helps prevent vocal fatigue. On the other hand, the voice is linked to our emotional state, and stress can cause contractions in the respiratory muscles and vocal cords. Therefore, it is advisable to perform relaxation techniques, which reduce the stress level, learn to breathe correctly, and gently stretch the neck and shoulders if we see it necessary.

If you notice that you are suffering from occasional aphonia, or dysphonia for more than a week, go to your specialist. The otolaryngologist is the doctor who assesses and diagnoses voice pathologies, and the speech therapist is the specialist who can help you with prevention and treatment for them.
 
And if you have doubts or questions, do not hesitate to contact us! Write us at info@sinews.es and we will give answers to your questions, and professional advice, if you need it.

Division of Speech Therapy
Alba Sánchez Blake
Speech Therapist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: English and Spanish
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