Save Your Voice

11/23/2008 ORLANDO, Fla. Janette Deschamps jumps, twists and sings four times a week at her church!

"I'm the annoying person who hums all day long, sings in the car, sings in the shower," Deschamps told Ivanhoe.

Singing is her passion.

"I just so love music and to be able to even have a job that pays me to keep using my voice is just phenomenal," Deschamps said; but a few months ago, she lost her voice.

"Notes that I could sing, I couldn't sing anymore, so I started wondering, 'What is going on?'" Deschamps recalled.

An exam showed Deschamps had blisters on her vocal cords. She was over-using her voice -- something more and more Americans are guilty of.

"We're very demanding on our voices," Jeffrey Lehman, M.D., an otolaryngologist at the University of Central Florida and Ear, Nose & Throat Surgical Associates in Orlando, Fla., told Ivanhoe. "We have a tendency to work hard. We have a tendency to play hard."

That doesn't pertain just to performers. Anyone who talks most of the day is at risk. When you speak incorrectly, your vocal cords collide and swell. Large polyps can form on the vocal cords.

To prevent problems, don't smoke, drink enough water -- about eight, eight ounce glasses a day -- avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. Use e-mail or texting when you can. Take a deep breath before you speak. Don't talk too loudly, but don't whisper either.

"A strained whisper like this actually causes more friction on the vocal folds," Bari Hoffman-Ruddy, Ph.D., an associate professor also at University of Central Florida and Ear, Nose & Throat Surgical Associates in Orlando, Fla., noted.

Experts say if your have hoarseness or discomfort, you should first try to rest your voice for about a week. If your symptoms persist, you should see a doctor for a vocal cord exam. Treatments may include more rest, medications, a modified diet plan or even surgery.

Deschamps is learning new ways to breathe when she sings. She hopes they will help her keep her most prized gift -- her voice.

Bari Hoffman-Ruddy, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of Central Florida
The Ear, Nose & Throat Surgical Associates
Orlando, FL


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