May 2024

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Health Capsule

Take Care of Your Voice

Most people have a distinctive voice. We can usually recognize people by their voice even if we can’t see them. But many people don’t think much about their own voice until something goes wrong.

Signs of voice problems can include having a hoarse or raspy voice or an achy throat. It may feel hard to talk. Or your voice may suddenly sound deeper. Another sign of trouble is repeated clearing of your throat. Or you may lose your ability to hit high notes while singing.

Voice problems can arise if you’ve been talking a lot or loudly. Teachers are especially at risk. Voice trouble can also arise from colds or other infections that affect breathing. Acid reflux, or heartburn, can sometimes harm the voice, too. A more serious cause is cancer in the throat—specifically in the larynx, or voice box.

Many voice issues resolve on their own over time. Most difficulties can improve by treating the underlying cause. Surgery or behavioral treatments are sometimes needed.

The good news is that you can take steps to protect your voice and avoid many problems. It helps to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Use a humidifier in your home, especially if you live in a dry climate. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke.

Learn more about the voice and related NIH-supported research.

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