Speaking About Better Vocal Health …

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Shhhhh. Did you know that whispering is very bad for your voice?

It seems counter-intuitive, but as Professor Bari Hoffman Ruddy explains, “Whispering can actually lead to more damage. It is hard on the vocal folds due to turbulent airflow and increased muscle tension.” Ruddy is a professor and speech-language pathologist in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. A better idea, she added, is to avoid whispering and talk softly when you feel your voice is irritated.

Vocal performance students get acquainted with the mechanics of their voice and breathing at a recent Vocal Wellness event, co-hosted by the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the School of Performing Arts.

Recently, the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders partnered with the School of Performing Arts for “Vocal Wellness for the Performing Artist.” The event brought students together for a vocal health fair and master class for tips on vocal health and prevention of vocal injury from experts in otolaryngology, speech-language pathology and vocal performance.
Here are a few suggestions from UCF’s Ruddy, Julia Rottmayer, CSD student and president of the Central Florida chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing;  and Jeffrey Lehman, M.D.,  and Emily Dunn, Clinical Fellow, from The Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates of Orlando.

  1. Vocal Fry is not the latest dining option at the Student Union. Also known as pulse register, laryngealization, pulse phonation, creak, croak, popcorning, glottal fry and glottal rattle, it is the lowest vocal register popularized by some inexplicably popular celebrities. Speaking in this manner may not permanently damage your voice, but it can make it difficult for you to speak in your upper register. Fry risk it?
  2. Smoke gets in your eyes. And nose. And throat. And your clothes. And your hair. Not only is it gross, but it messes with your voice. Seriously, if you smoke, stop that right now. Stay away from second-hand smoke, too.
  3. Suck on this: Cough drops do not help you sing better. Many cough drops contain menthol or other drying agents. Although some cough drops can be lubricating, nothing takes the place of water intake.
  4. Let’s bee serious. A spoonful of honey is not going to help your voice. While honey has many good qualities, swallowing it will not reach your vocal folds (some people call them “cords”) directly. If you must have honey, drizzle it into a cup of warm water; you probably need to drink more water anyway.
  5. Don’t clear your throat. Yes, we know it feels good, but it is a habit more than a necessity. You may think you’re making your vocal folds nice and clean, but you could be damaging them. Try just dry swallowing. We know it is not as satisfying, but it is much safer for your beautiful instrument.
  6. If you want your voice not to suck, use a straw. It’s true! One of the cheapest ways to improve your voice, this technique is actually part of scientifically researched warm-ups called “Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises.” Google “straw phonation,” and you’ll be good to blow, sing and speak.

    Attendees at the Vocal Health Fair and Master Class practice straw phonation.

  7. You know about drinking water. Your voice can also be bothered by pollen, animals, mold and certain foods. And if you are prone to reflux, where stomach acid can back up into your esophagus, avoid acidic foods (there are a bunch of them).

    What are the best foods to eat to help prevent acid reflux? From left, Carissa Hamilton, Luis Velazquez, Kristi West, Bethany Ferrari, Breanna Henderson, Carol Russo and Genevieve Cintron.

  8. Your vocal folds should be smooth and pearly white in appearance, and mucus should move about them freely, lubricating them as they do their work. Want to see if your vocal folds are healthy? The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers voice evaluations to all students who are interested in their vocal health, or if hoarseness persists for longer than two weeks. For more information, contact the UCF speech and hearing clinic at 407-882-0468.

Special thanks to the following students the School of Performing Art for sharing their talents at the master class: Austin Branks, Lauren Abel, Jenna Toler, Alexis Gedallovich and Josh Ceballos. Bravo!

The UCF School of Performing Arts (SPA) and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) united for World Voice Day at UCF: From left, Tara Snyder, MFA; Associate Professor, SPA ; Steven Chicurel-Stein, DMA, Associate Director and Professor, SPA-Musical Theater; Jeremy Hunt, DMA, Associate Professor, SPA – Music; Jeffrey Lehman, M.D., The Ear, Nose and Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates; Bari Hoffman, Ph.D., Professor, CSD; Julia Rottmayer, CSD student and president of the Central Florida chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing; and Emily Dunn, Clinical Fellow, and The Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates of Orlando.

By Camille Dolan ’98

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