McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Clark Rosen, MD, is the Director of the University of Pittsburgh Voice Center and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at the School of Medicine. As a board-certified otolaryngologist--a physician trained to treat disorders of the ears, nose, and throat (ENT)--he specializes in the care of vocalists and the treatment and research of voice disorders. Every April 16th, Dr. Rosen and otolaryngologists throughout the world celebrate "World Voice Day." This international celebration of the human voice was established to help raise public and professional awareness about voice disorders. It represents an interesting and growing collaboration of otolaryngologists, for the public good.
World Voice Day represents one small step toward increasing awareness of vocal health among members of the general public and highlighting advances in voice diagnosis and treatment within the international otolaryngology community. Teachers, politicians, clergy, salespeople, courtroom attorneys, telemarketers, and receptionists are all people for whom spoken communication is an essential part of what they do, and there are countless other professions that rely heavily on the voice. In spite of this era of e-mail and Internet communications, it is still hard to conceive of an effective classroom, election campaign, pulpit, or courtroom without voice. Once you pause to consider a world without voice communications, you realize that voice is crucial to our professions and our everyday lives.
ENT doctors offer some tips to keep occupational voice users and the general public alike in tip-top vocal shape:
- Drink plenty of water. Moisture is good for your voice. Hydration helps to keep thin secretions flowing to lubricate your vocal cords.
- Try not to scream or yell. These are abusive practices for your voice, and put great strain on the lining of the vocal cords.
- Warm up your voice before heavy 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.
- Use good breath support. Breath flow is the power for voice. Take time to fill your lungs before starting to talk, and don’t wait until you are almost out of air before taking another breath to power your voice.
- Use a microphone. When giving a speech or presentation, consider using a microphone to lessen the strain on your voice.
- Listen to your voice when it is complaining to you. Know that you need to modify and decrease your voice use if you become hoarse in order to allow your vocal cords to recover. Pushing your voice when it’s 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, a physician trained to treat disorders of the ears, nose, and throat.
The idea for a large-scale event focusing on voice originated in Brazil. In April 1999, Brazilian otolaryngologists established National Voice Week. This effort was inspired by World Health Organization data documenting a disturbingly high rate of laryngeal cancer in Brazil. Colleagues in other nations recognized the value of this effort. The American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery joined the effort, and the first World Voice Day was celebrated on April 16, 2003.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
KDKA (video) (04/15/08)
UPMC Voice Center
The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery