By Anthony F. Jahn, MD
After 30 years of treating professional singers, from students to opera stars, I have come to the firm belief that the best way to manage vocal injury is to avoid it. The larynx is a complex and delicate structure that is constantly active, whether you are singing, speaking, or just quietly breathing. Here are some simple and common sense tips that will keep your voice healthy, and may keep you out of the doctor’s office.
- Speak like you sing, with good technique.
- Stay hydrated. Drink 8 right ounce glasses of water every day. Two glasses of water with each meal and one glass between meals (2+1+2+1+2).
- Know your body. When you are ill, don’t force the voice.
- If it hurts to sing, stop and reassess. You’re doing something wrong
- Avoid noisy places if you can. Even if you are not speaking, your throat tenses reflexively.
- Eat small amounts of healthy food frequently for an optimal diet.
- Identify, and deal with, harmful stressors in your life.
- Address tension anywhere in your body, It can heighten tension in your vocal tract.
- Exercise and stretch regularly.
- Be aware of your medications (prescription, over-the-counter and supplements), including possible effects on the voice.
Remember a healthy voice comes from a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Dr. Jahn is a Board-certified otolaryngologist who practices in New York with a special focus on the care of professional voice patients. He has written and lectured widely on the care of singers. Dr. Jahn has had a 30-year association with the Metropolitan Opera as covering physician, has toured with the company, and is Medical Director at the Met. In addition to clinical care, Dr. Jahn has published numerous books and articles, including The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health, and writes a monthly column in Classical Singer Magazineon health issues.
Image credit: Initial A: A Man Singing, about 1460 - 1480, Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment. Unknown, illuminator. Leaf: 60.3 x 44 cm (23 3/4 x 17 5/16 in.). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig VI 2, fol. 128v. Courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program.