Chief Medical Director at SANESolution | Website

Dr. Matthew Olesiak continues to make a significant impact in the medical field through his work at SANESolution and his dedication to evidence-based practices.

Vocal Health: Top 14 Tips for a Healthy Voice and Throat

Speaking comes so easily for most of us that we don’t give a thought to our vocal health. Indeed, we take speech for granted, thinking that only singers must be concerned with vocal hygiene. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s take a look at some statistics for various “vocal” occupations in the United States:

  • Customer service representatives: about 2.9 million (1)
  • Teachers (K–12, adult education, and career/technical schools): More than 4 million (2)
  • Sales representatives: an estimated 1.56 million (3)
  • Front desk receptionists: more than 1.5 million (4)

While we could add statistics for university professors/instructors, sales representatives, restaurant servers, and other professions, the main idea is clear: a significant percentage of the population relies heavily on their vocal cords for work and are therefore at risk of vocal strain that can negatively impact their vocal health and careers.

Vocal Health in Peak Fitness

In this Throat health and Throat Cleaner blog post, you will learn how to keep your voice in peak condition by understanding your vocal cords, identifying voice-related issues, and adopting essential habits for a healthy voice and throat. So, let’s explore vocal health and unlock your voice’s full potential!

If you want to read even more about your throat health then you must check out our Is Apple Juice Good for Sore Throat? Maybe Not and Working Out With Sore Throat: Is It Okay? guides!

An image of a woman singing into a microphone to warm up her voice for vocal health.

Short Summary

  • Understand vocal health and its role in speaking and singing.
  • Identify symptoms of poor vocal health.
  • Practice proper vocal care techniques, such as vocal warmups, vocal naps, and breathing, for optimal voice health.

Understanding the Vocal Cords

Your vocal cords or folds are two muscular bands that are crucial to your ability to speak and make sounds. Positioned opposite each other in the larynx (voice box), they snap shut when you begin to talk, and the vocal cords vibrate when the air from the lungs passes through them to produce the sounds of your voice.

The size and shape of your vocal folds and the resonating cavities in your throat, nose, and mouth determine the pitch, volume, and tone of your voice. When you are not speaking, your vocal folds remain open so that you can breathe. It’s truly amazing how aspects of our bodies work together to make communication possible!

Symptoms of Poor Vocal Health

Symptoms of vocal health problems can include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • A deeper voice than normal
  • A high-pitched, wheezing sound when you breathe in. This is called a “stridor.”
  • Restriction in or loss of vocal pitch
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Frequent coughing
  • Low voice and inability to increase its volume
  • Noisy breathing
  • A sensation of tightness in the chest or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tired voice, i.e., weak voice production

Causes of Voice Issues

Several factors can play a role in voice issues, including:

  • Vocal misuse, such as shouting or screaming
  • Vocal strain and overuse
  • Upper viral infections, including a cold, laryngitis, and pharyngitis (sore throat).
  • Certain bacterial infections, like strep throat
  • Neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux that can irritate the throat
  • Growths in the vocal cords, like vocal nodules
  • Cancer of the larynx
  • Psychological traumatization

Maintaining Good Vocal Health Tips and Tricks

This section is dedicated to those who wish to maintain a healthy singing voice, take care of their voice for an upcoming speaking engagement, or support their vocal health for extensive talking during customer service shifts.

This section will discuss the importance of staying hydrated, performing proper vocal techniques like warmups, taking vocal naps, using natural throat products for relief, and much more.

1. Drink Lots of Water

Keeping the vocal folds covered with the right amount of mucosal lubrication is key to vocal health. Drinking 6–8 glasses of water daily helps keep this lubrication present but thin, which is ideal. Herbal tea is good, as are fruits high in water content. But caffeinated beverages are less optimal fluid sources because they can be mildly dehydrating.

An image of a pitcher and glass of ice water with lime slices.

2. Perform Vocal Warmups Before Extensive Use

As any singer or vocal performer attests, vocal warmups are essential to their daily routine. From lip trills to breathing exercises, practicing these warmups is crucial for perfecting your singing or professional speaking voice. Like you wouldn’t run a marathon without stretching your legs, hitting the stage or the studio without a vocal warmup is not advisable.

There are numerous reasons to practice vocal warmups, but the most important one is that it is a great way to support vocal health and improve your vocal technique. Warming up your vocal cords before a performance can reduce the risk of tension, damage, and voice loss. This is important because your vocal cords are delicate, and you must handle them carefully.

To warm up and protect your voice, practice lip trills, tongue trills, or humming for ten minutes before a vocal performance. (You can easily find other vocal exercises online.) These exercises will help stretch and relax your vocal muscles, ensuring good vocal health.

3. Take Vocal Naps

It’s important to rest your voice to prevent damage and promote healing, especially if you’ve been screaming at a concert, yelling from a podium, or using your voice excessively. If you have a job requiring you to talk on the phone frequently, rest your voice for at least ten minutes every two to three hours.

4. Avoid Vocal Strain

It is advisable to refrain from yelling or shouting and instead use a microphone or megaphone when necessary. Speak from your diaphragm rather than your throat. In loud settings, limit your speaking or stand close to the person while speaking to them. Avoid whispering, too, as it strains the voice because it requires you to push air through narrow vocal cords to be heard.

5. Avoid Throat Clearing

Throat clearing is one of the worst things you can do for your voice. When you clear your throat, the vocal folds rub together, causing irritation and swelling. This leads to more saliva and mucous buildup in the vocal cords, which requires more throat clearing. To avoid this, try coughing once, swallowing hard, or drinking water instead of clearing your throat. You may also find relief by using a soothing cough drop.

An image of a senior man with his fist over his mouth clearing his throat.

6. Use a Humidifier Regularly to Moisten the Throat

Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can prevent your vocal cords from becoming too dry. This is particularly important if you’re ill or reside in a dry area.

7. Breathe Through Your Nose, Not Your Mouth

Breathing through your nose is advantageous for singers and speakers because it has several benefits. It naturally moisturizes and cleanses the air that you inhale, which helps to prevent irritation and inflammation of the vocal cords. This can result in an enhancement of voice quality and a decrease in the likelihood of developing voice problems. Moreover, nasal breathing can considerably decrease the effort required for speaking and singing.

8. Quit Smoking

It’s important to note that smoking anything can be harsh on your throat due to the chemicals and heat involved. This irritation can cause chronic laryngitis, vocal fold polyps, and cancer. You should also avoid breathing second hand smoke.

9. Get Enough Quality Sleep

Understanding that proper sleep is crucial for maintaining vocal health is essential. Lack of sleep can be detrimental to your voice, and to speak and sing well, you need to prioritize getting enough rest.

Your body needs time to recharge and rejuvenate; if you are tired, your voice will reflect that. Ignoring the importance of sleep can lead to a lack of focus, reduced clarity, decreased volume, and a decline in tone quality. Over time, this can result in vocal strain and damage.

To ensure the best possible voice quality, getting 7-8 hours of sleep before any vocal performances is recommended. While this may be challenging for those who prefer to stay up late, it is essential for maintaining vocal health.

An image of a middle-aged woman sleeping soundly in bed.

10. Adjust your Diet

The ideal diet for maintaining healthy vocals may differ for each individual. However, it should primarily consist of plant-based foods, provide sufficient protein, contain low saturated fats and dairy levels, minimal sugar, and be rich in essential vitamins and minerals.

To prepare for a vocal performance, avoiding foods that produce mucus, such as dairy products, processed meats, and fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, is crucial. Additionally, it’s recommended to stay away from throat and mouth irritants such as hot peppers.

11. Get Regular Physical Exercise

The condition of your body impacts your vocal health. Activities like aerobic training, yoga, stretching, and breathing exercises can improve vocal health for singers and public speakers. The aim is to enhance vocal function, endurance, performance stamina, and breath control while improving overall vocal health and performance.

12. Watch for Signs of Acid Reflux/GERD

If you’re experiencing chronic hoarseness, it may be due to acid reflux. This is a condition where stomach acids back up into the throat and can cause damage to the vocal cords. Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux, but if you don’t experience it and still have persistent hoarseness, it’s best to seek evaluation from your doctor. Sometimes, you may have laryngopharyngeal reflux (“silent reflux”), which doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms. However, the acid can still harm your vocal folds if left untreated.

13. Use Natural Throat Products for Relief

To soothe a sore throat and improve your voice, it’s recommended to use throat lozenges, tea, or throat spray that contain slippery elm, an excellent throat lubricant. Drinking lemon and honey warm tea can also be incredibly soothing for throat irritation. Licorice root and marshmallow root are effective in reducing inflammation.

When choosing products, choose those containing glycerin and honey instead of sugar. Although menthol is a common ingredient in throat products, it can be drying and, therefore, less beneficial.

14. See a Voice Specialist, if Necessary

You should consult a speech-language pathologist for evaluation and voice training or therapy if you experience voice issues that will not resolve with natural remedies, such as a reduced vocal range or inability to hit high notes (if a singer).

When to See a Doctor

It is not unusual to experience brief hoarseness after a respiratory infection or using your voice for an extended period. Generally, with some rest, this should resolve within a short time. However, if your hoarseness persists for more than two or three weeks and is not gradually improving, you should see a doctor, particularly if you smoke or do not have cold-like symptoms. If there is a significant concern, your primary care physician may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, also known as an otolaryngologist, who specializes in diagnosing and treating issues related to the larynx.


In summary, taking care of your voice is crucial to achieving clear communication in social situations, public speaking, and singing. These tips for maintaining vocal health will help you preserve your voice as a powerful tool for self-expression. Remember that your voice is valuable and unique, so it deserves proper care.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does good vocal health mean?

Taking care of your voice is known as vocal hygiene. This involves adopting habits that promote voice health, like drinking sufficient water, refraining from vocal strain, using natural throat remedies, and taking vocal breaks.

Is vocal rest good for you?

Yes. It is essential to prioritize the health and well-being of your vocal cords if you want to maintain a strong and clear voice. One effective way to achieve this is by taking regular daily breaks to rest, recover, rehydrate, and relax your voice. It is important to note that these breaks should be used wisely. For instance, if you have been using your voice for an extended period, minimizing talking during your break is best to allow your vocal cords to rest and recover.

How do you lubricate vocal cords?

Remember to stay hydrated to maintain vocal health. Keeping your vocal folds covered with the right amount of mucosal lubrication is essential. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily helps to keep this lubrication present but thin, which is ideal.

How do you keep your vocal cords clear?

Keep your vocal cords clear by running light vocal warmups, drinking plenty of water, avoiding vocal strain, breathing through your nose, avoiding throat clearing, using throat cleaner, taking vocal naps, quitting smoking, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, treating acid reflux (if necessary), getting regular exercise, and using natural throat product like slippery elm for relief.






Chief Medical Director at SANESolution | Website

Dr. Matthew Olesiak continues to make a significant impact in the medical field through his work at SANESolution and his dedication to evidence-based practices.