Speech is an essential part of communication. When the voice is over-exerted, it may become hoarse and feel fatigued. When an individual continues to speak and strain their voice, they risk developing vocal nodules on their vocal folds. This changes the way we speak including how loud and for how long we can speak for. Who is the most affected by this and what can they do to help the pain?
Vocal nodules appear to be opaque-white in colour, symmetrical in shape and are firm growths on your vocal folds. They cause dysphonia, meaning they change the quality of an individual’s voice. For some, this means that their voice may sound more raspy, strained, or breathy because the nodules prevent the complete closure of the vocal folds. The voice may also be at a lower pitch than usual, may easily crack, or may sound hoarse. Individuals who experience this may feel throat pain, a lump in their throat, and may feel easily fatigued while speaking. Damage to the voice may cause some people to compensate by attempting to speak louder, ultimately straining their voice further and causing additional vocal stress.
Teachers and children are the populations most affected by vocal nodules, as it is often caused by excess yelling or over-use. Teachers are constantly ensuring that their class is being attentive and behaving, as well as teaching and constantly using and straining their voice. What are some strategies to preserve the voice, and reduce vocal stress?
Drinking lots of water, ensuring that you are resting your voice and not shouting for long periods of time is important. Taking deep breaths while speaking is important too, and for some people, microphones are a good tool to reduce vocal strain. For some, vocal therapy is needed to help with additional strategies to target specific vocal stress. In therapy, the speech-language pathologist will work on educating on how speech works and the types of specific behaviours that can damage the voice. They will teach specific exercises to target the stress caused by speech, and will teach all about the various breaths needed for different levels of speech.
Our voice is what allows us to speak our minds, although when we over-use it, it can become strained and damaged. This affects the way we communicate, how we work, and how care-free we can be with our voice. It is important to recognize the symptoms associated with vocal stress and work on ways to lessen the pain associated with it.