Experts believe that our voices are like fingerprints. They are completely unique, and help to determine our success, influence people and offer an insight into our mood, while playing a part in almost everything we’ve ever done as human beings. Our voices also reveal other information about us, such as our age, gender, mood, emotional state and general health.
But what would you do if you lost your voice? Amazingly, this is more common than we realise. It’s estimated that 10 per cent of the US population currently have voice disorders and 25 per cent of working people in the US lose a significant amount of time at work because of voice-related problems. The most common causes are regular colds and flu, or vocal fatigue after a long period of talking or shouting. But there are also more serious factors that could cause you to lose your voice forever. Viral infections, benign lesions or cysts on the vocal cords, neck or chest surgery, smoking, environmental allergies, cancer and even stress can play a part.
But don’t panic. World Voice Day on April 16 aims to raise awareness of these problems, and the American Hospital Dubai will be hosting free sessions to teach you how to avoid vocal problems and what to do if you have them. There will be live demonstrations of the voice in action, plus a range of activities and giveaways, vocal evaluations and an overall celebration of the voice.
While many of us take our voice for granted, we often don’t realise how important it is until we lose it. ‘During surgery in the UK for lung cancer, the surgeon paralysed a vocal cord,’ explains Dubai resident Randeep Sangha. ‘‘My voice was a whisper and it was a great effort for me to speak.’ Scared of going under the knife again, he met Dubai specialist Lee Bolton. ‘He advised speech therapy,’ says Sangha. ‘Before my operation I wasn’t even aware that voice issues could be such a problem. World Voice Day is great as people learn that there are alternatives to surgery.’ Sangha’s voice, after careful rehabilitation and vocal exercise, has now returned to normal.
Voice therapy is similar to physiotherapy applied to the areas involved in voice production,’ says vocal expert Lee Bolton. ‘For some people, even very small changes in their voice can have an enormous impact on their lives.’
Worryingly, most of us put our voices through antagonising situations every day, including living in dry, air-conditioned atmospheres, smoking, or drinking excessive amounts of caffeine. Go along to World Voice Day and find out how you can keep your voice loud and clear.
The open day takes place from 10am-3pm on April 16 in the outpatients building at American Hospital Dubai, Oud Metha Road. For info, email firstname.lastname@example.org (050 465 3782)
How to avoid problems with your voice
• Drink plenty of water. Experts recommend drinking at least two litres every day.
• Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks and alcohol, as these tend to dehydrate the voice.
• Stop smoking – it’s the single worst thing you can do for your voice. The heat and chemicals in tobacco cause dehydration and inflammation, and may cause permanent changes in your voice, not to mention lung, throat and mouth cancer.
• If your throat feels sore, inhale steam for five minutes.
• Rest your voice when you have an infection. Continuing to talk as normal can lead to long-term voice problems.
• Try not to speak loudly for long periods, even if you’re well.
• Avoid too much harsh coughing. Sip water, swallow, chew gum or suck on a sweet.
• Have 30 minutes of ‘quiet time’ each day to rest and relax your vocal muscles.
• Above all, listen to your voice – it may be trying to tell you something.