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.
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:
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.
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