Published: February 23, 2016

Vocal tips to ‘explore’

Vocal conditions arise from a variety of sources including vocal overuse or misuse, cancer, infection, or injury. Here are some tips to keep your voice healthy as you “explore your voice” through life.

By Amanda Hu, MD, for the AAO-HNS Voice Committee

voiceVoice problems are usually associated with hoarseness, which is characterized by altered vocal quality, pitch, loudness, or vocal effort that impairs communication or reduces voice-related quality of life.

Vocal conditions arise from a variety of sources including vocal overuse or misuse, cancer, infection, or injury. Here are some tips to keep your voice healthy as you “explore your voice” through life.

  • As you jog along the journey of life, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes exercise, eating healthy, and getting adequate sleep.
  • When you pass by a clean water source, stop to take a drink. It is important to keep yourself well hydrated. Your body needs about six to eight glasses of water daily to maintain a healthy voice. This water consumption optimizes the throat’s mucous production and aids vocal fold lubrication.
  • If you pass by a bistro or concession stand, don’t drink an excessive amount of coffee, tea, soda, or alcohol. These drinks all dehydrate the body and dry out your vocal folds. These drinks will also worsen acid reflux.
  • When you approach a fork in the road (or at any time), decide not to smoke! If you are already a smoker, then decide to quit. Smoking can lead to lung or throat cancer. Primary and second hand smoke can cause significant irritation and swelling of the vocal cords. This will permanently change your voice quality.
  • Before you start on your journey, remember to warm up your voice. You should warm up your singing voice and speaking voice before heavy voice use. Warm-ups can be simple, such as gently gliding from low to high tones on different vowel sounds, doing lip trills (like the motorboat sound that kids make), or tongue trills.
  • If your path gets rocky or you encounter significant background noise, don’t try to talk over it. Do not abuse or misuse your voice. Avoid habitual yelling, screaming, or cheering. Try not to talk in loud locations. If you routinely need to speak in a loud environment or give a long speech, consider a vocal amplification system such as a microphone.
  • Take a deep breath of fresh clean air and use good breath support when speaking. The lungs are the power behind the voice. Don’t wait until you are almost out of air before taking another breath to power your voice.
  • Obey the signs on the road and listen to the signs from your body. If your voice is complaining to you, listen to it. Modify and decrease your voice use if you become hoarse in order to allow your voice to recover. Pushing your voice when it is already hoarse can lead to significant problems.

If your voice is hoarse frequently, or for an extended period of time, you should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat physician). There are many medical conditions that can cause hoarseness, such as infections, reflux, overuse, and cancer.



More from March 2016 - Vol. 35, No. 02

New task forces focus on education
By Sonya Malekzadeh, MD, AAO-HNSF former Coordinator for Education The AAO-HNS/F has assembled four education task forces to address important issues concerning our Members and the profession. I am honored to be involved in many of these efforts and to serve as chair for two of these groups. The Simulation Task Force was formed in 2011 to define the current state of simulation, to investigate its role and future potential in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, and to provide educational resources for AAO-HNS Members. Under the leadership of Ellen S. Deutsch, MD, the Simulation Task Force has accomplished: Initiation of Simulation Open Forums, at both the Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meetings (COSM) and the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO EXPOSM, has brought together like-minded individuals to discuss interests, challenges, and opportunities in simulation. An active ENTConnect community engages simulation Members in ongoing collaboration and exploration. Launch of the SimTube Project, a national initiative for simulation-based educational research with the immediate goal of assessing the usefulness of a low-cost, low-tech simulator in learning myringotomy and tube placement, and the larger goal of establishing an infrastructure that could support multiprogram collaboration for more complex simulation-based educational research in the future. More than 60 U.S. residency programs now participate in the study. Numerous Annual Meeting Miniseminars highlighting current education efforts and advanced technology in simulation while also demonstrating the value of simulation in quality of care and systems improvement. Recognizing the expanding role of simulation in education, research, and quality, the task force has recently submitted an application to become a Foundation committee. This new designation will permit a formal and permanent structure for furthering Member opportunities and engagement. Dr. Deutsch and Gregory J. Wiet, MD, will chair the committee. The Comprehensive Curriculum Task Force stemmed from the 2013 Board of Directors Strategic Planning meeting where Academy leadership acknowledged the need for a core curriculum in otolaryngology. The Otolaryngology Comprehensive Curriculum will serve as a lifelong, continually expanding learning and assessment tool for otolaryngology professionals. The content and structure will meet the needs of students, residents, allied health colleagues, and all practicing physicians engaged in MOC and lifelong learning. The online format will cover the otolaryngology scope of knowledge, provided in various educational formats, to guide and address cognitive and technical skills. The “living” content will be kept current with frequent updates so users can be assured they are participating in a rich and growing educational program. The task force believes this to be an ideal opportunity to unite the specialties around education, reduce duplicative efforts across societies, and to provide a comprehensive education platform for our specialty. A working group comprised of society representatives is finalizing a list of topics and performing an inventory of all existing education content across the specialties. This information will inform the development of future education programming. The Intraoperative Nerve Monitoring Task Force, in existence since fall 2015, will address key issues relevant to facial nerve monitoring during otologic and neuro-otologic surgery. With representation from the American Neurotology Society (ANS) and the American Otological Society (AOS), the task force will focus on: Determining current practice in training and performance of nerve monitoring among Academy Members and Residency Program Directors. Developing education activities that will provide uniform and standardized training for otolaryngologists to safely and successfully perform the procedure. Clarifying the AAO-HNS/F perspective on intraoperative nerve monitoring within the specialty. AAO-HNS President Sujana S. Chandrasekhar, MD, proposed the latest group, Advanced Practice Professionals (APP) Education Task Force. With the growing presence of mid-level providers in otolaryngology practices, it is imperative that we provide our colleagues with proper education and training in our field. These efforts will improve their contributions to our practices and patients while also educating AAO-HNS Members on the benefits of including APPs in the profession. In collaboration with the APP societies, including SPAO-HNS, the task force will design educational programing and provide resources that will allow advanced practice providers and otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons to work synergistically to improve patient care. “I have every confidence that this task force will put together a comprehensive ENT APP curriculum, utilizing many Academy resources. Establishing such an educational outline will really help our Members as they seek to incorporate APPs into their practices” said Dr. Chandrasekhar. Karen T. Pitman, MD, and Peter D. Costantino, MD, will serve as chairs of this new task force. Academy task force Members are working hard on topics critical to the Academy and the profession. “These education task forces really complement the work of the education committees by addressing new and innovative education opportunities for our Members,” said Richard V. Smith, MD, coordinator for Education. If you are interested in more information or contributing to any of these projects please email