Vocal fatigue…what it is and what you can do about it

What is vocal fatigue?
Vocal fatigue is when the voice deteriorates with use. This could be after a day of teaching, an evening of singing, or after a few hours talking in a noisy environment.

What causes vocal fatigue?
While vocal fatigue can be a symptom of a specific  voice problem, including physical voice problems, such as nodules or polyps, or neurological problems, such as Parkinson’s disease, in many instances it is directly related to voice misuse…i.e. how you use your voice.

Doesn’t everyone’s voice get tired when they speak or sing too much or too loudly?
No.  Just listen to your typical three your old! In most cases, they can shout, sing, cry, scream for prolonged periods of time, without any loss of voice quality (or volume!) And while, we generally (rightly or wrongly!) scale back this freedom of expression as we get older, it is still possible, as an adult, to have a voice that is free, flexible, and able to meet the challenges that you throw at it. For some people, this comes naturally while for others they need to re-learn how to use your voice naturally and without strain.

So, your voice often gets tired, do you need to be worried?
Well, like anything to do with our bodies, occasional over exertion may not result in a long standing problem. However, if you are frequently experiencing vocal fatigue, it is important to investigate this further. If it is something which seems to be related to when you use your voice in particular situations, such as after a day of teaching, then this signals that it is something that you are doing when you speak. The things is, if you continue to use your voice in this way, you put yourself at risk of more chronic voice problems.

What can you do about it?
It is possible to learn practical tips about caring for your voice (vocal hygiene), and also to learn how to use your voice safely and effectively. These are topics which I cover at my voice care and voice projection workshops.

When should you to seek professional help.
Don’t ignore a chronic voice problem.
Arrange an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat Consultant (E.N.T.) if you:

  • experience hoarseness which continues for 2-3 weeks
  • suffer frequent hoarseness or voice loss
  • experience a significant voice quality change
  • are aware of constant vocal fatigue
  • experience difficulty or pain with swallowing

Following an ENT visit, contact a speech and language therapist who specialises in voice work.

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