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What to Do When You’re Losing Your Voice

What to do When You’re Losing Your Voice

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You’ve got 25 rambunctious students just returning from lunch and the best your poor voice can muster is a desperate whisper.

Not good.

You’ve lost your voice and you’ll do just about anything to get it back!

I went through a nasty stretch where I struggled with my voice for months on end – pretty much the entire school year. Some days would be worse than others, but I found myself barely making it through each week, desperate for the weekend to recoup my voice.

It’s so frustrating when the tool you most need to be an effective teacher – your voice – conspires against you. When you want to teach freely, to sing in church, and to talk with your students, friends, and family without worrying about ruining your voice, but that’s just not your reality.

When my voice kept getting worse, I finally went to a doctor, who in turn recommended a speech therapist. And I’m so thankful he did. My therapist helped me understand what was causing my voice issues and how to overcome them.

If you struggle with losing your voice, these suggestions might be just what you need, too.

Regaining Your Voice

1. Keep your throat moist. Drink lots of water and take throat lozenges when needed (Ricola is my favorite). Steam is also extremely helpful. Boil a cup of water; then take a towel and situate it so that it makes a tunnel from the opening of the cup to your mouth. Take deep breaths to inhale the steam. (You can also put the towel over your head, but I never wanted to ruin my hair right before teaching so this adaptation worked really well.) Finally, consider buying a humidifier for your classroom and/or bedroom.

2. Rest your voice. Isn’t this the most frustrating advice when we have to use it every day. ERGH!!! I wanted to scream when I would hear this. I want to, but I can’t!!

While it’s true that we cannot rest our voices entirely, we should do what we can to give them a break. Don’t yell and don’t whisper. And don’t talk more than you have to.

When your voice is particularly bad, plan as many working activities as you can (as opposed to lectures) and throw in some learning videos if you need to.

Don’t feel guilty for switching up your normal routine to help yourself get your voice back. Variety can be good for the kids, and the sooner your voice recovers, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to your maximum efficiency.

3. Speak with proper breath support. This ultimately made the biggest difference for me, and I’ll try to explain it the best I can. Basically whenever we speak, we need to have strong breath behind our words.

Often we continue to speak after we’ve released our breath and are thus talking with no breath supporting our words. Instead, start with a deep breath from your diaphragm and then to release that breath as you speak.

The key is to only speak when you are breathing out. If you run out of the breath, you are able to keep speaking, but that’s when you’re damaging your vocal chords. Instead, stop and take a new breath before continuing. (If you’re familiar with singing at all, it’s exactly how they tell you to sing. Who knew that we’re supposed to speak that way as well!)

Learning how to consistently speak with proper support takes some practice, but it will make a big difference. Check out this video for more details:

YouTube video

4. Stretch and maintain good posture.
Did you know that pain in your neck/upper back can contribute to vocal tension (and vice versa)? So when you have pain in the base of your neck, take a few minutes to stretch. Try simple shoulder rolls or look at more stretches here.

5. Consider medical help or speech therapy. If you’re really having trouble, consider going to a doctor or speech therapist. Just a few sessions could be all you need to determine how to correct your speaking patterns. It’s also possible that you could have nodules on your vocal chords which should be monitored and could possibly even need surgery. At the very least, start doing some research.

As you consistently work in all these areas, you should see your voice gradually improve. And soon you’ll have no problem corralling your rambunctious post-lunch students with as loud of a voice as you need.

Know other teachers who could use these tips? Share this article with them now!

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  • This is such an important article. I have vocal chord nodules now because I got into the habit of talking over kids AND lowering my natural vocal register. I should know better as a singer and a teacher of 11 years. This is all great advice. I would also suggest using a microphone when speaking, but speak much less. An air purification method may be important if you teach in a portable as well.

    Thanks for highlighting this. I hope to be able to sing in church again soon.

  • I am glad that I saved this article. I tend to get hoarse at least once a year usually during the winter months. Today, I definitely need it.

  • I tend to lose my voice every year during the winter. I even had to take a month off work to allow my vocal chords to heal. Not all of this was from teaching, it was singing in church as well. In addition to seeing a specialist, i was sent to speech therapy as well.

    We often take our voice for granted, but as a teacher, if our voice goes, we are really handicapped. This message was one that we all need to take note of.

  • Get a lanyard microphone especially if you are a woman with a voice that is difficult to hear. It will make your life so much easier and will help the children to better understand you too! Request your school to provide this as an accommodation if you have seen an ENT about voice strain.

  • Thanks for this. Its funny bc I googled “losing voice but need to talk” and you came up first. ???? You have some great advice especially regarding breathing properly. Ive never thought aboiut that or seen it suggested but it makes total sense???????? I’ve been going through the same problems w my voice. I teach Sunday School and It’s been about two months now that I’ve had this problem. I’ve had to miss twice and I don’t want to miss anymore. So thanks for the good advice and for being a servant for the Lord by having this site. Your labor is not in vain!

  • This is one of my frustrations right now. I cried a lot of times when my coordinators tell me that every time they observe me in my class, my voice seemed to crack. It’s just my 3rd year of teaching and I am afraid that this is just a psychological thing like what some people told me. They said I was just nervous during observations BUT I swear, my throat gets dry most of the time. 🙁 I am so lost. I even got to the point that I think teaching is not really for me. 🙁

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