Within the past couple of months I’ve noticed that my voice is beginning to sound different. It’s raspier and evens sounds like it’s cracking when I’m speaking for extended periods of time. That causes concern for me because my voice has been my gift as a radio and television journalist and now as a communications coach and public speaker.
While doing some research on this issue, I discovered that a changing voice may be a part of the aging process. Researchers from Wayne State, Florida State and the University of Colorado (Boulder) found “…just like the muscles and ligaments in other parts of our body, the ones which are connected to our vocal chords tend to become thinner and deteriorate as we grow older. A decline in respiratory function, decrease in maximum oxygen consumption and even medical conditions can interfere with vocal health.” The study says prescription medications, aspirin and other analgesics can result in serious vocal problems.
And then there’s menopause. “Estrogen deprivation causes substantial changes in the mucous membrane that line the vocal tract. Change in hormone levels have been associated with hoarseness, decreased vocal range and lowered pitch.”
So how does one manage an aging voice? According to an article published by Harvard Health, “staying physically fit with good aerobic activity keeps air moving past the vocal cords and MAY lessen changes in your voice.” (Notice the article didn’t say WILL). You should also drink plenty of water and if you take medication ask your doctor if any of them could affect your voice. This is especially important if you are a trained singer.
Avoid something called larnygopharyngeal reflux-–a fancy term for the backwash of irritating stomach acids onto your larynx. That acid reflux is blamed for too many cases of chronic hoarseness, according to Very Well Health.
Smoking is a culprit so if you smoke and really do care about your voice (as well as your lungs), you should find a way to give it up.
Self-induced Voice Abuse No need to yell and scream. You may be rooting for your favorite team or child playing sports but that puts a strain on your vocal cords and it does get worse with aging. That also means avoid talking in loud noisy places because trying to talk over noise also causes strain.
Rest Your Voice When you’re Sick: Illness puts extra stress on your voice.
Voice Therapy: This seems extreme for someone like me but I can certainly understand singers and actors doing it. If that’s for you, consult an ear, nose and throat specialist or a speech pathologist for more information.