Straw Phonation: How an item in your cupboard can save your voice!

If you find that your voice is persistently hoarse or fatigued seek assessment from an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor and we will be happy to help you on your road to vocal recovery. To find out more about how our team at S.L. Hunter Speechworks can help you to relieve voice problems and keep your voice in tip-top shape click here

Here is a riddle for you! What is long, thin, helps you drink milkshakes, and can reduce vocal fatigue? A straw of course! Did you know that the plastic or reusable straw in your cupboard can be used as part of voice therapy? Straw phonation is a fun and simple way to help reduce vocal strain and build good voice habits with a tool you already have at home.
 
So…What is straw phonation?
It really is as simple as it sounds! Straw phonation is making sound through the straw. Straw phonation is a type of exercise called “Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises” or “SOVTEs”. These exercises involve narrowing the size of opening for your air to escape. This creates a back pressure that helps reduce excess tension in the vocal folds. When we make sound through a straw the air escapes from the end of the straw instead of your lips, making the vocal tract (or the path the air is travelling) narrower and longer.

Does size matter..? (straw size, that is)
Straw size does matter! The smaller the diameter of the straw is, the greater the effect.  But that does not mean you should run off to grab a coffee straw from your favorite café just yet. A straw with a smaller diameter is also more difficult to use. Like most exercise, Straw phonation only has a benefit if you are doing it correctly! As such, it is important to start with a larger sized straw (even as big as a bubble-tea straw) and then work your way down to smaller straws with practice.
 
What sounds do I make?
There are endless ways to exercise your voice through a straw. Depending on your goals, the exercises that will help you achieve them will be different. If you are experimenting with straw phonation for the first time, here are some exercises to try:
 

  1. Make an "oo" sound through the straw at a comfortable, easy pitch and hold it for 8-10 seconds.
  2. Make an "oo" sound and glide or "siren" from your lowest to highest note. If this is working well, try gliding from high to low!
  3. Blow an easy tune like "happy birthday" through the straw (don't mouth the words, just use an "oo" for the whole song).
 
How do I do straw exercises correctly?
Here are some important tips to remember when practicing your straw exercises:
  1. Make sure all the air is going through the straw. This requires a good lip seal! Check to ensure air is not hissing out of the sides. If it is you may need to strengthen your lip seal or try a wider straw.
  2. Take a deep (diaphragmatic) breath before you make sound. Your belly should move out and your shoulders should not rise when you breathe in.
  3. The airflow through the straw should be steady and constant. You can check your airflow by placing your hand at the end of the straw to feel it coming out.
     
Want a demonstration? Click here to see a video of the founder of straw phonation, Dr. Ingo Titze, demonstrating how it is done.
 
If you find that your voice is persistently hoarse or fatigued seek assessment from an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor and we will be happy to help you on your road to vocal recovery. To find out more about how our team at S.L. Hunter Speechworks can help you to relieve voice problems and keep your voice in tip-top shape click here
 
 

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