Without a shadow of a doubt, I would say that vocal hygiene is one of the most frequently overlooked reasons as to why a fair number of individuals find themselves unable to reach their ftm/ mtf voice training goals. Vocal Hygiene is essentially a list of things to avoid (or limit) in your life so as to protect your vocal folds from the harm which can and will prevent you from reaching your true mtf or ftm voice potential. Remember to think of your voice as an instrument, it demands to be respected as well as properly cared for in order to ensure that you’re able to get the most out of it as possible. In this article, we'll delve into the impacts that caffeine, alcohol, acid reflux, water intake, and smoking will have on vocal hygiene and ultimately, your voice.
Many people rely on caffeine to stay alert and energized, but any amount of caffeine intake can affect vocal hygiene negatively. Here's how:
Dehydration: Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it increases urination and can lead to dehydration. Dehydrated vocal folds are more prone to irritation and strain.
Dry Throat: Caffeine can dry out the mucous membranes in your throat, making it uncomfortable to speak or sing.
Tip: Caffeine in high concentrations can be found in more than just coffee, it’s also present in tea, chocolate, soda and energy drinks.
Alcohol consumption, no matter the alcohol content percentage, can have a significant impact on your vocal folds and overall vocal health:
Dehydration: Like caffeine, alcohol can dehydrate your body, including your vocal folds and this leaves them more susceptible to damage and irritation. Furthermore it can also lead to both acid reflux and sleep disruption which affects your body’s ability to achieve restorative rest.
Inhibition of Muscle Control: Alcohol can impair muscle control, affecting your ability to control pitch and tone when speaking or singing. Another concern is that when you drink, it can impair your judgment regarding the extent and volume of your voice usage. This is because it acts as an anesthetic, prompting you to exert more pressure on your vocal cords to attain a normal speaking or singing sensation.
Tip: If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation, and ensure you drink plenty of water to assist in counteracting its dehydrating effects.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This condition can have a detrimental impact on vocal hygiene through:
Irritation and Inflammation: Stomach acid can irritate and inflame the delicate tissues of the throat and vocal folds, leading to hoarseness, discomfort, and long-term damage (as you could imagine your incredibly delicate vocal tissues aren’t a fan of bathing in stomach acid).
Chronic Conditions: Frequent acid reflux can contribute to the development of vocal fold nodules, polyps, or even more severe vocal disorders.
Tip: If you experience acid reflux, seek medical advice, and follow your doctor's recommendations for treatment. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding eating anything a few hours before laying down (such as going before going to bed)/ avoiding eating acidic or spicy foods, can help manage symptoms.
Proper hydration is fundamental for vocal hygiene because it allows for:
Lubrication: Adequate water intake keeps your vocal folds lubricated, reducing friction and minimizing the risk of strain or injury.
Mucous Production: Water helps maintain a healthy balance of mucous production in your throat, which is necessary for vocal fold protection and function.
Tip: Aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day and not just chugging a bottle of water before bed (this won’t help to undo the damage that was incurred during the course of your day). A strategy I often share with my client's is to try developing the habit of taking a sip of water every 15 minutes or so throughout the work day. Additionally, Keep in mind that you may want to drink even more if you live in a dry climate or engage in vocally demanding activities such as working in an occupation that requires frequent vocal use.
Smoking, regardless of form (eg. cigarettes, cigars, drug use, vape, e-cigarettes etc…) is one of the most damaging habits for vocal health, it causes:
Irritation and Inflammation: The chemicals in smoke can irritate and inflame the throat and vocal folds, leading to chronic hoarseness and increased risk of vocal fold disorders.
Reduced Lung Capacity: Smoking reduces lung capacity, making it challenging to sustain long phrases or sing with power and control.
Tip: Quitting smoking is the best step you can take for your vocal hygiene. Seek support and resources to help you quit, and consult with a healthcare professional if needed. Nicotine's
Nicotine is the addictive component that can be found in cigarettes, vapes and even on it’s own in various forms such as sprays, gums and oral pouches. It plays a significant role in effecting vocal hygiene through causing:
Vasoconstriction: Nicotine constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the vocal folds and potentially impairing their function.
Dryness and Irritation: Nicotine can dehydrate the throat and vocal folds, leading to discomfort and potential vocal strain.
Tip: Quitting nicotine products can have a positive impact on your vocal health. Explore nicotine cessation programs and consult healthcare professionals for support.
What you are able to achieve with your voice is strongly tied to your lifestyle choices. To maintain excellent vocal hygiene, strike a balance in your life. Limit caffeine and alcohol, manage acid reflux, stay well-hydrated, and, if you smoke, consider quitting. By taking care of your voice, you'll ensure that it remains a powerful tool to help you reach your long term transition goals. As always I wish you all the best in your voice training journey and if at any point you feel like you could benefit from the direction of a Trans Voice Training Teacher, feel free to get in touch with me through my website at https://www.voicebykylie.com/.
Till' next time,