Voice Over Education Blog

Vocal Care

For vocal health, don't let your humidifier turn against you! Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

In Part One, we talked about the benefits a voice actor receives from proper indoor humidity, and discussed various types of humidifiers. Aahhhh! Instead of the raw feeling you get from air that's been overheated or air-conditioned, moist air is so soothing, right?

Right. Except for this unsettling thought:

It can also make you sick.

Although proper humidity promotes health, improper use of a humidifier can be harmful. The device itself can breed and spread microbes and allergens. Some types of humidifiers can also break water-borne minerals into fine particles (possibly appearing as white dust) that can be irritants or transportation for germs. (This has been a concern especially with ultrasonic types.) They might even distribute toxic metals.

You MUST keep a humidifier clean.

To avoid such complications, follow manufacturer instructions, but in general:

Vocal health calls for "Goldilocks" humidity this winter. Part 1 of 2.


NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

EdgeStudio.com has a lot of information about vocal health. You'll find links to much of it at the end of this article. One subject we've barely touched on, however, is the matter of indoor humidity. Moisture in the air is important to maintaining good vocal health, but you can also have too much humidity. There are various ways of maintaining humidity, each with certain advantages and dangers.

Important: We are not medical experts and cannot give medical advice. This is not exhaustive information. If you have any question or concern about your health or any symptom, consult your doctor without delay. If anyone has a respiratory difficulty (e.g., asthma, allergy to mites or mold), consult a physician before using a humidifier. Exercise suitable caution when dealing with steam or boiling water. Clean any device as instructed. If infants or young children are present, consult their physician before use, as microbes and particalized mineral deposits can be harmful to their lungs, and additives can also be problematic.

Cold air is dry, and heating dries it further, but humidity's not just a winter issue. Air conditioning dries the air, too. You feel cooler, but your sinuses may become raw. At some point, you may need to turn off the A/C, or open a window, or add humidity, or step outdoors.

So, at any time of year, what amount of humidity is "just right" and how should you maintain it?

Humidity has benefits

Keep your voice healthy today. But how about tomorrow?


To keep your voice in shape, you stay well hydrated, avoid shouting in noisy locations, practice good oral hygiene (including refraining from smoking, etc.), and avoid environments and conditions that promote respiratory illnesses. But is that enough? No, because it’s not enough just to be concerned about your vocal health today. To enjoy a long – and healthy – VO career, it will be important to maintain your vocal health into your later years. Just as we’d all like to have as strong a body as possible as we get older, we want a strong voice. But, as with the rest of our body, that becomes more difficult as we age.

Note:

If you find yourself losing your voice, or experience rapid or undesirable changes, or loss of vocal control, see a voice expert – either a reputable voice coach or a medical practitioner specializing in voice (laryngologist). One may refer you to the other --perhaps for vocal exercises to tone laryngeal muscles and to use more effective vocal techniques, or because some vocal symptoms or changes have potentially serious medical causes.

The symptoms of vocal aging

It’s not surprising. The voice tends to suffer the same age-related effects as the rest of the body. As we get older, we lose muscle and strength. Fat accumulates and is harder to lose. And tissues simply deteriorate, being not so quick to regenerate and repair. In speech, the effects are manifested in a variety of ways:

Super Bowl party? Use “Henny Youngman” vocal care.


With the Super Bowl coming up, it’s possible you’ll be in a loud sports bar or big party where you literally have to shout for hours just to be heard. No doubt you’ve already heard warnings not to abuse your professional instrument. (Some people think referring to your voice as your “instrument” is pedantic and pompous, but your voice is as versatile as any instrument, and more irreplaceable than a Stradivarius, so as a professional voice artist, that’s how you should treat it!)

But do you take those warnings to heart? If not, here’s why you should.

NOTE: This is not advice from a medical professional. We can give you typical guidelines, but not a personal diagnosis. If you have any concern or question regarding the state of your vocal health, please consult your personal physician or an ENT professional promptly.

Some people can shout and talk all day without getting hoarse. Others can’t. Even trained, in-condition voiceover professionals can virtually lose their voice after a long period of intense voice work – for example, as we noted in our article on political commercials (https://www.edgestudio.com/blogs/election-over-long-live-election), the men and women who specialize in that genre can become almost speechless by election day.

It might be that you actually like the effect of having had to shout all evening. Wow, the next day you sound like Sam Elliott or Trace Adkins, right? But what good does that do you? You can’t audition or make a cut for your demo, because 36 hours later or so, you won’t be able to reproduce it. (Although regular daily vocal exercise, and perhaps guidance from a voice teacher, will help you come very close.) And odds are you don’t happen to have a one-off job that next day where a very low voice is called for.

Odds are, it won’t matter much in the long run.

Earplugs to protect your hearing: Which type for you?


We recently talked about hearing loss, how “easy” it is for today’s environments and personal habits to damage your hearing, and ways to help preserve it. One of those ways is to use earplugs when you will be exposed to unusually loud sounds for even a short time, or a louder-than-normal environment for a sustained period.

What kind of earplugs might be right for you?

The purpose of this article is to bring these issues to your awareness. It is only a summary and details are generalized. To fully appreciate what hearing dangers exist in your environment, and to determine the extent to which you should be concerned and/or take precautions, and what precautions are best for you, please look further into the issue or consult a hearing health professional. Some solutions perform differently for various individuals. If you have any hearing difficulty, noticeable hearing loss, ailment (including but not limited to pain, discharge or pus in the ear), or want expert advice, please consult your physician or a hearing specialist promptly.

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People wear earplugs for various reasons, not all related to hearing preservation. We’ll take a quick look at many types of earplugs. In order to determine which kind you need, and judge their efficacy in meeting your needs, first consider what your needs are.

Some people want to block out snoring. Some (swimmers) want to block out water. Some want to block as much environmental noise as possible, others want just to bring it down to a safer level but still need to hear their surroundings (such as the presence of announcements or emergency alerts), and others (such as musicians) want to protect their ears but need to hear the full spectrum of audio frequencies, as faithfully as possible.

If it hurts when you do that, don’t do that! How to protect your hearing. Part Two.


NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one!

Last week we talked about hearing loss, how “easy” it is for today’s environments and personal habits to damage your hearing. Some loss is inevitable as we get older. But, short of crawling into a cave, how can you protect yourself? The good news is that there are a variety of ways, and not all of them involve earplugs.

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The purpose of this article is to bring these issues to your awareness. It is necessarily only a summary and details are generalized. To fully appreciate what hearing dangers exist in your environment, and to determine the extent to which you should be concerned and/or take precautions, and what precautions are best for you, please look further into the issue or consult a hearing health professional. If you have any hearing difficulty, noticeable hearing loss, ailment (including but not limited to pain, discharge or pus in the ear), or want expert advice, please consult your physician or a hearing specialist promptly.


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How can you to protect your hearing?

Reduce your exposure to environmental noise. The most obvious solutions is in the classic Henny Youngman joke: "I said, 'Doctor, it hurts when I do that.' He said, 'Don't do that."

Except avoiding noise is easier said than done, and this is no joke.

In the United States alone, 20-30 million are exposed to dangerously high noise levels at times. 30 million people have hazardous noise levels at work. (The similarity in those numbers may be due to our having got them from different sources. Anyway, in both cases, it’s a lot of us.)

Earbuds and earplugs -- A heads-up on hearing health - Part One


NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click here to read part two!

As a voice actor, you figuratively need “ears” for judging your performance. But these days you’re probably also your own audio engineer, so you also really need ears for judging the quality of your audio.

How’s your hearing? Probably significantly worse than your counterpart a generation or two ago. Our ears evolved in a world where the loudest sounds were the roar of a waterfall, a clunk of two rocks, and the occasional bolt of lightning. Today’s world and your own listening habits can be murder on your auditory system. How can you protect your hearing?

The purpose of this article is to bring these issues to your awareness. It is necessarily only a summary and details are generalized. To fully appreciate what hearing dangers exist in your environment, and to determine the extent to which you should be concerned and/or take precautions, and what precautions are best for you, please look further into the issue or consult a hearing health professional. If you have any hearing difficulty, noticeable hearing loss, ear ailment (including but not limited to pain, discharge or pus), or want expert advice, please consult your physician or a hearing specialist promptly.
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Whatever your age, your hearing won’t be any better than it is right now. And odds are, your hearing right now isn’t the equal of your professional counterpart a generation ago.

How’s that you say? (Part Two) A further look at vocal health


NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one.

Last week we discussed hydration and how much to get of it. This week, let’s look further into the issue of vocal health care. Some of this may seem obvious to you, but – like hydration – it’s news to many people, and important for all to remember.

3. Avoid stress and get enough sleep.

In addition to helping you read in a relaxed and “vocally free” manner, it promotes health overall. (What good is vocal health if the rest of you is laid up?)

Following a dictum to “reduce stress” maybe harder to follow than getting regular and sufficiently long nighttime rest, but there are some things to explore.

Consider various relaxation techniques. Some people are able to take a 20-minute nap and it works wonders. Others find that a short nap just leaves them tired and likely to sleep much longer.

And alternative choice might be yoga, meditation, Alexander Technique, Buteyko Method, or some other discipline. We’re not recommending you go off the deep end with any of these, at least not till you’ve gotten your feet wet. Online you’ll find lots of good introductions to each, and there are also good introductory books. In the course of your investigations, you might find some “tricks” that work for you and simply adopt those. But some people say that to get the full benefit of certain disciplines, it’s important to work with a coach. See what works for you and how much training you’ll need.

How’s that you say? Taking care of your vocal health


NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Stay tuned next week for part two!

Have you had your flu shot yet?

Ours is an unusual industry in so many ways. How we deal with minor illness is one of them. Most people, if they have a cold, they still come into work and tough it out (unless they work for an especially enlightened employer). But the last thing anyone wants a voice actor to do is come in and spread a throat infection to the rest of the studio and VO community.

If you record at home, it’s less of an issue to others. But vocal health is of course still a major issue for you as talent. Many people pay too little attention to their vocal health until something starts going awry.

At EdgeStudio.com you’ll find a lot of vocal health tips, so rather than repeat them all here, we’ll include links to some of them, and a variety of other authoritative sites, at the end of this 2-part article.

Meanwhile we’d like to add some fundamental thoughts that bear repetition or elaboration, and a few things that may have escaped your attention.

Important: We are not medical experts and cannot give medical advice. If you have any question or concern about your health or any symptom, consult your doctor without delay.

1. Hydration, hydration, hydration.

WHAT IS "VOCAL FRY?"


Are you at risk? Read and find out!

Vocal Fry is a speaking style that damages your vocal chords.

It occurs when you speak in your lowest register and create a low, glottal, grumbling sound. When this sound is created, the vocal folds compress tightly and become limp and compact. This sound is stereotypical of young girls and reality television stars.

This speaking style is a rising epidemic in today’s society, but many don’t know they are doing it.

If you are a singer in addition to a voice actor, you are even more at risk. Vocal fry is that stereotypical "croaking" sound made in country music, and is also used by bass singers in gospel choirs. These practices can permanently damage the vocal chords and may cause you to lose some upper notes in your register.

Other common names for vocal fry are pulse register, pulse phonation, glottal rattle, glottal fry, glottal scrape, creak, laryngealisation, and strohbass.

So I’m "Frying" my Vocal Chords…How Do I Stop?

Vocal Fry has snuck its way into our society and is affecting the way we speak.

The best way to stop this bad habit is to become aware that you are doing it. Once conscious, stop yourself each time you hear vocal fry creeping in.

To correct further, record yourself speaking and listen back. Post recordings on the
FEEDBACK FORUM and get vocal fry feedback from your peers as well.

You will hear your vocal fry when your voice is pitched lower than usual, or part of elongated vowels in the middle of a word, at the end of word, or in voiced consonants.

Become aware of your speaking. Keep your voice healthy.

What Do You Do To Stay Healthy For Voice Over?


We asked some of our friends, and here is their advice:

PAMELA JACKSON says, "plenty of water, eat healthy, exercise vocal as well as physical, and I listen to my body. Take care of your voice and your voice will take care of you."

KENDRA WEBB says, "A unique, powerful immune supplement in the form of a molecule extracted from bovine colostrum and chicken egg yolk."

A'LISA WILHELMSEN ANDRADE says, "Vitamin D 6,000 IU/daily as well as a Neti Pot regimen for immune system support. To prepare for a long day of recording, take Mucinex 1200 mg extended release tablets. It does 2 things: lubricates the vocal folds to ensure the smooth luscious sounds stay clear AND thins mucosal secretions so all that yucky winter phlegm doesn't clog those tones. If you find yourself with a scratchy dry throat, try Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea or Thayers Lozenges. Both use slippery elm which is mucilaginous."

NIKI KERNOW says, "I drink at least 2 litres of water everyday and I drink hot water with lemon, honey and ginger!"

SUSAN D'ANGELO says, "Lot's of foods high in anti-oxidants. I drink a lot of green tea, and I swear by Emergen-C every day. Also, I keep my chest and neck covered up when out in the cold. It's all about staying virus-free."

And…My advice:

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