Whitefield Academy Blog

Talking with a Mask: How to Prevent Vocal Fatigue

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Parenting, Private Schools, Reading, The Classroom, Uncategorized | 0 comments

If you had told me in 2019 that in 2020 I would be teaching music at a classical Christian school in the middle of a pandemic while wearing a mask, I might have been a bit confused by your prediction. Yet, here we are!

Anyone who has to wear a mask for an extended period of time while talking, teaching, coaching, or conversing has surely noticed an amount of abnormal vocal fatigue. There are a number of ways to prevent this fatigue and keep your voice and throat healthy while still being understood by those around you.

Preventions

Environment

Oftentimes our environments are difficult to control. But if you can, applying some of these tips can be helpful.

  • Eliminate ambient noise like fans, running projectors, and outdoor sounds. The fewer things to talk over the better.
  • Add a humidifier or steam vaporizer to your work space. If that’s not possible, use one in the evenings at home.
  • Keep water close by!

Posture and Breathing

It might be hard to believe, but the way you sit and the way you breathe can have a huge effect on your vocal health.

  • Sit or stand tall. Your feet should be aligned with your shoulders, and try not to slouch especially through your ribcage. In my experience, this is the most damaging posture problem.
  • Keep your neck loose. If you sit at a desk, check yourself every once in awhile. Are you super tense or tight? Loosen up!
  • Use your diaphragm to support your sound instead of grabbing with your throat to increase volume. This will be easier to do if you have good posture.
  • Take bigger, slower breaths and then use all of the air.

Vocal Rest

This will be easier for some people and harder for others depending on how often you need to speak during the day, but being conscious of vocal rest can save you in the long run.

  • Take breaks from speaking as often as possible.
  • Avoid increasing your volume, instead speak more slowly and with purposeful diction.
  • Avoid yelling. “Silent Celebrations” and jazz hands might be what you need to use while watching the Chiefs games.
  • Do your best to get adequate sleep each night.

Warm-Ups

Hey, right now there is no greater feat than getting through each day, so why not warm up just like you would before a practice or game? Do some of these warm-ups before any lengthy speaking.

  • Hold /ee/ or hum a comfortable mid-range pitch for as long as possible – 2x – in order to wake up the vocal folds
  • Vocal slide low to high on /knoll/ – 2x – easy stretching vocal cords
  • Vocal slide high to low on /knoll/ – 2x – easy stretching vocal cords
  • Sing up and down a five note scale (Do Re Mi Fa So Fa Mi Re Do) on /oll/ – 2x – more precise, conscious movement

Diet

Yes! Even your diet can affect your throat and voice.

  • Avoid spicy, minty, and acidic foods. These foods can cause reflux that can irritate the throat.
  • Avoid dairy. Dairy can expand your sinuses making breathing harder and can increase your mucus supply which can irritate your throat.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Both can dehydrate you and strain vocal cords.

Laryngeal Hydration

It’s a fancy way to say, “Stay hydrated!”

  • Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. The water your body needs today was taken in yesterday! So, if you are preparing for a speaking engagement, drink water in the days leading up to the event.
  • Drink warm, non-caffeinated liquids when talking for a long time.
  • Use non-menthol or non-eucalyptus lozenges.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Mitigations

If you’re already suffering from a dry and sore throat, scratchy voice, or vocal fatigue, here are some ideas for mitigating the problem.

  • Up your water intake.
  • Check that posture we talked about earlier.
  • Breathe more deeply and speak more slowly.
  • Do not cough or clear your throat. This does NOT help.
  • Push warm, non-caffeinated liquids.
  • Take vocal breaks whenever possible.
  • Use non-menthol or non-eucalyptus lozenges.

At least for the time being masks are going to be a part of our daily lives. So we might as well make the best of it and start some good habits for keeping our voices and throats happy and healthy. Try some of these ideas out and see if you notice a difference!

 

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