If you’ve ever been in a scenario where you were talking or screaming a lot, you may be familiar with a sore throat and the loss of your speaking ability. When streaming, your dazzling personality shines, in a large way, through how you speak and vocally interact. To lose that method of communication can be quite a blow to your streaming schedule.
Unless you are exceptionally gifted and can manage to utilize sign language while gaming, or blink in morse code, you’re going to want to take care of your voice.
Causes of a Lost Voice
It’s important to note, before we go on, that loss of your voice or a sore throat isn’t just restricted to overuse. It can also be a sign of a viral or bacterial infection, so definitely go get it checked out if you can.
But first, how is sound made?
Sound is created by the consecutive snapping together of your vocal folds (aka vocal cords) with air from your lungs blowing past, causing the folds to vibrate. Your vocal folds can vibrate from anywhere between 100 and 1000 times per second, so it’s easy to see how they can become overworked as the days go on. This air produces sound waves which are modulated as they travel through your throat, nose, and mouth.
The more you use your voice, the harder your vocal folds have to work, and the more susceptible you are to straining or losing your voice.
As is the case with many health issues and body maintenance, water is the answer. Since your vocal cords vibrate at high speeds it’s important that they stay lubricated to aid in the easy creation of sound.
Drinking plenty of water will help your vocal cords remain lubricated and prevent them from drying out or becoming damaged. You should also avoid drinking fluids that can dehydrate you, such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol. At the very least, you should avoid drinking large quantities of them.
Smoking can be one of the worst things for the delicate skin of your throat, so if you do smoke, you may want to quit. Aside from the obvious dangers of inhaling cigarette smoke, it can also severely affect your voice. Due to smoke being an irritant, it can agitate and damage the delicate tissues within your throat, including your vocal cords. This can cause swelling, pain, and improper voice function.
However, you don’t have to be the one smoking to do damage to your vocal cords. Simply being around smoke or smokers can be detrimental to your voice. Avoid areas with high concentrations of smoke, such as smoking areas, individual smokers out in public, and around a fire.
Try not to Yell
If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘shout yourself hoarse’, you may already understand where this section is heading. For those unfamiliar, shouting yourself hoarse is a literal expression for shouting for so long that you lose your voice. As you talk louder or more aggressively (shouting/yelling), your vocal cords will vibrate faster and more intensely. This leads to inflammation, swelling, and nodules or polyps on your vocal cords.
Your voice isn’t designed for prolonged bouts of excessive yelling, and if you engage in those activities, known as voice misuse, you can drive yourself to a lost voice. It works in a similar fashion to how over-revving a car can have negative effects on your engine.
Use a Microphone
Especially important for streamers, using a microphone prevents you from straining your vocal cords through yelling or amplifying your voice. Your audience will easily be able to understand you, even if you’re talking softly, which is ideal for longer streams or a consistent stream schedule. After all, you don’t want to have to cancel a stream because you’ve lost your voice.
Before a session of prolonged talking, singing, or presenting, it’s important to warm up your voice, with special exercises designed to prevent strains or tears of the vocal cords. In the same manner, as you wouldn’t exercise before doing some stretches to warm up, it’s a good idea to ready your voice for prolonged speaking.
A good way to warm up your voice before a stream or the recording of your latest video is to hum the tune of your favorite song. Depending on how embarrassing your favorite song is, you may want to do this in private. Humming through your favorite songs is done easily enough and lightly pushes your vocal cords through a series of vibratory motions, preparing you for prolonged speaking.
You can even run through a few of your favorite tongue twisters, starting off at normal speaking speed and progressing a little faster as you go. Peter Piper and his Pickled Peppers, the Red Letter, Yellow Letter, and other tongue twisters can not only warm up your voice but can help you enunciate when speaking.
How to Recover Your Voice
We’ve talked about ways to prevent you from losing your voice but let’s say it has already happened and you’re left raspy, sore, and struggling to communicate.
Just Be Quiet
One of the best ways to recover a lost voice, to find your voice if you will, is to simply not talk. Think of other physical injuries such as a broken or strained bone. You will most likely be advised to not use the affected area; not to walk on a broken leg, don’t lift things with a broken arm, etc.
The concept is the same when it comes to your voice, just relax and write notes/text when possible. This allows your vocal cords to recover without putting them through additional strain.
You may think that whispering will be beneficial for helping a hoarse voice but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Every individual has a specific vocal sound, basically the way you normally sound when you are talking. This is your voice when you are relaxed and comfortable, any variation to this puts undue stress on your vocal cords.
This means shouting and whispering both put strain into your voice more than standard talking, so if you absolutely need to talk, it’s advised you speak softly instead. This creates less tension on your vocal cords and can lead to a faster recovery.
Humidity Is Your Friend
In the same way that drinking plenty of water or warm liquids, such as tea with honey, will soothe your throat by maintaining or increasing moisture in the body, creating humidity or steam can be wonderful for relieving a hoarse or lost voice.
This can be achieved in many ways, but a shower is by far the most common and easiest. Simply take a hot shower and breathe in the steam that will inevitably rise around you. The steam moisturizes the interior of your throat, which can lead to reduced inflammation and faster recovery.
In the same vein, you could even use an air humidifier which basically adds additional moisture to the air around you.
Tea With Honey
This has been a home treatment for sore throats and lost voices for a very long time and it works because, again, the tea and honey work together to create a moist environment inside the throat. Raw honey is full of antioxidants and is widely used to soothe a sore throat, aiding in the rapid recovery of your proper speaking voice.
Taking care of your voice, especially if your income or hobby revolves around you being able to talk, is incredibly important. Just because your voice and vocal cords aren’t visible, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking care of both of them. Much like an athlete going to physio after an injury, or focusing on a particular area that gets rigorously worked out, you should be ensuring that your voice is always in tip-top shape, so you can stream your best.