Vocal Care in a World of Online Sessions and Mask Wearing
The world has certainly changed this past year and with it, healthcare providers, teachers, front-line workers, among others, have had to pivot and change their methods of interacting with each other and their clientele. As a result, masks, face shields, and online communication have taken over as the new way to communicate safely. With this, many people are finding that they are vocally exhausted, feeling strain, and often feeling lightheaded after a day of work. Here are some tips to help you use your voice more effectively and safely under these conditions:
Use Your Breath
Even more important than ever, remember to breath from your abdomen, using your diaphragmatic muscles to power your voice when talking. When wearing a mask, our breath and speech is not let out as it is without a mask, it requires more effort to project and to maintain our breath support. Ensure you are always taking a deep supported breath in through your nose. Breathing through our nose helps to keep your voice and throat hydrated and allows you time to take a deeper, more relaxed breath that will get through the mask more efficiently when you speak.
When speaking online, it is important to still maintain the breath support from your diaphragm and not push the voice our from the chest. This shallow breathing can lead to a strained voice and tired vocal musculature. Often people will elevate their vocal volume when online as well, it is best to use a good quality head set so that you don’t feel the need to shout when talking.
When speaking through a mask or online, it is still important to treat your voice with care just as you would prior to mask wearing and online speaking. Drink water constantly, taking frequent breaks to take sips as you are speaking. Cool mist humidifiers and cool steam inhalers can be helpful as well to support hydration of your throat and voice.
Less is More
Sometimes less talking is more effective to get your message across, and in this case better for your vocal health too. Try to limit excess talking as much as possible when speaking through a mask or online, instead use visual online supports, activities, or written cues, to help support your points and activities. Know ahead of time the points that you want to get across to your communication partner and stick to those points. If your communication is lengthy, take breaks often, so that you can recharge your voice and re-set you breathing.
Posture is always a key element in voice production. Ensure that you are seated comfortably in a chair with proper back support, where your head is level, spine is straight, and shoulders are relaxed. This will help to reduce any tension in your neck and shoulders, which can adversely affect the muscles of the larynx.
Pace your Speech
The pace that you are speaking at can affect your breath support and ultimately your effectiveness in getting your messages across. Just as you would when speaking face-to-face, make sure your speaking rate is comfortable and natural. Think about saying each sound in the words you use clearly when speaking and complete each word before moving onto the next one. Rushed speech can cause you to push the words out and not use your breath effectively, which can lead to strain and vocal fatigue. Allowing time for the other person to speak effectively gives your voice a break as well and ensures you do not end up speaking over each other. Pace yourself and your voice will have mor stamina in the end.
Warm up your voice
Vocal warm ups can help your vocal musculature stretch and get limbered up for the day. Humming, lip trilling, or tongue trilling on a comfortable pitch level and then moving up and down pitch gently and with breath support can help you to warm up the voice before speaking online or through a mask. Doing this several times a day for a few minutes each time goes along way in vocal longevity.
Speak from the front of your face
Sounds funny as you are probably saying, “Where else can I speak from?” But many people place their voice in the throat and therefore sound and clarity become trapped and one cannot be heard without more effort. If we speak from the front of the face, it is much easier to project and even though a mask or visor may reduce the volume, you will be clearer when you position your voice more frontally and it will reduce your vocal fatigue. To achieve this, start with a comfortable hum and feel the vibration on your lips. Try some M words (mom, me, my) and slightly hold the M sound. When you can really feel the sound on the lips, you know you are speaking from the right spot. When speaking with a mask on, trying smiling when talking, this will help you to keep the voice frontal and light.
Using these tips and reducing any background noise when using a mask/face shield or online, will help to maintain a healthy voice that still has stamina at the end of the day. Teachers are one population that are facing this challenge daily. Click here for a great article on teaching with masks and what to do about it.
If you continue to find that your voice is persistently fatigued, hoarse, and is not recovering, seek assessment from an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor and we will be happy to help you on your road to vocal recovery. Check out our voice therapy options!