Vocal Health for Spring

By SLP, Brett Lee, May 4th 2016 Swallowing Disorders

Did you know that allergy season might cause trouble for your voice?

For many of us, spring brings our allergies into full bloom. As we put away our puffy coats, we come to expect sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes to follow. The voice can be affected during allergy season by the symptoms we experience and how these symptoms are treated.

The sound of your voice is made by two tiny pieces of cartilage called vocal folds that vibrate together in the larynx or voice box. Allergies often cause nasal passages to swell and increase secretions. Excess secretions from a runny nose may be dripping back onto your vocal folds, known as post-nasal drip.

Post-nasal drip can make the vocal folds dry and swollen, impacting the way they work and possibly leading to a change in how your voice sounds. Coughing, which may occur with excess mucus, can further irritate the voice. Some common antihistamines can also dry and irritate the vocal folds. This continual irritation and drying of the vocal folds increases the likelihood of a bigger voice problem. 

Though allergies may be unavoidable this time of year, there is relief for your voice.

Here are some tips for keeping your voice healthy:

  1. Use a sinus rinse. A saline wash clears the sinuses of allergy-causing particles, helping to prevent allergy symptoms. Sinus rinse kits, also known as Netti Pots, are available in most drug stores.
  2. Ask about antihistamines. Ask your doctor which allergy treatments are best for your symptoms and your voice. If you are taking antihistamines, try using a nasal spray antihistamine, as these tend to irritate the voice less.
  3. Stay hydrated. Your vocal folds work best when you are well hydrated. Most professionals recommend six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day. This will also counteract the drying affect of antihistamines.
  4. Take a voice rest. If your voice feels or sounds irritated, let it rest. This can be done by choosing to limit the use of your voice to help your voice heal.
  5. Learn to use your voice in a healthy way. If you find that your voice regularly feels tired, you sometimes lose your voice, or the sound of your voice changes—voice therapy may help. Schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist to evaluate your voice and ask if you need voice therapy. If so, find a speech-language pathologist with experience treating the voice.

To make an appointment, please contact The Aspire Center directly by calling (212) 453-0036, or email us at appointments@nyaspire.com