“People often take their voice for granted and expect it to be in perfect working order whenever they need to communicate,” said voice expert and laryngeal surgeon Anca Barbu, MD, “But the holidays can strain your vocal cords, especially if you are traveling, if you are singing in your holiday choir, or if you find that you are frequently yelling to be heard over ambient noise at seasonal parties.”
For optimal vocal health, Barbu recommends taking some simple steps to preserve your voice:
• Stay hydrated – “Our vocal cords rely on moisture and natural lubrication,” Barbu said. Overheated homes as well as airplane cabin pressure can result in dry air, leading to decreased moisture that is vital for our vocal cords. So make sure you drink enough water this holiday season.
• Plug in the humidifier – You can combat dry air caused by heating systems by digging out your humidifier or investing in one this holiday season. But Barbu recommends thoroughly cleaning the unit and buying a clean filter. A simpler option: Take a long, hot shower and let the steam moisturize your head and neck region, inside and out.
• Cozy up for conversations – At parties, turn down the music so you don’t have to yell to hold a conversation. Or better yet, “Get intimate and cozy by trying to have conversations when you are less than an arm’s length away from each other,” Barbu said. “This helps you avoid shouting over the crowd.”
• Avoid eggnog and peppermint – Like many sweet or acidic foods and beverages, seasonal favorites such as eggnog and peppermint can exacerbate acid reflux, which in turn can affect your voice, Barbu said. If you simply can’t stay away from the sweets and the spicy treats, keep the reflux in check by not lying down immediately after indulging. Instead, go for a walk or use the time to wrap presents.
• Budget your voice – If you are singing or acting more this holiday season, remember that your voice is not an unlimited resource. “If you are doing five choir performances in a row, don’t compound the strain by yelling during a bowl game,” Barbu said. “Remember, a little voice rest never hurt anybody.”
• Know the symptoms – If you experience pain when singing or talking, or if you have experienced a voice change lasting three weeks or longer, make an appointment to see a voice specialist, Barbu said.