Vocal Hygiene

Brushing your teeth. Bathing every day. Washing your hands after using the restroom. These are all forms of hygiene that most adults practice regularly and are certain to instill in their own children as well. Although, one form of hygiene that people often dismiss is vocal hygiene. Taking steps to maintain a healthy voice is especially important for children. Children with abusive vocal behaviors can develop a breathy, hoarse, or “raspy” voice, which can be indicative of damage to the vocal folds, such as vocal nodules or polyps. Damaging the vocal folds can mean long-term voice issues that require therapy or even surgery.

Abusive vocal behaviors to watch out for in your children:

  • Throat clearing and/or coughing (may be secondary to allergies, illness, etc.)
  • Excessive crying or tantrums
  • Speaking loudly or yelling frequently
  • Excessive talking
  • Singing
  • Making sound effects

Some factors that may contribute to decreased voice quality, but may not be as apparent:

  • Hearing loss
  • Medications
  • Chronic asthma and/or allergies
  • Gastric reflux
  • Dehydration of the vocal folds (can be from caffeine intake or not enough water)

To ensure your child maintains a healthy voice, try these hygiene tips:

  • Stay hydrated! Limit the amount of caffeine your child consumes and have him drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Reinforce breath support. Remind your child to slow down when telling stories and to take relaxed breaths as needed.
  • Encourage relaxation. Have your child stretch his neck, shoulders, tongue, facial and jaw muscles periodically.
  • Model a “healthy” voice. Speak at a comfortable volume and without strain. Avoid whispering and speaking loudly or yelling.

If your child’s voice quality does not improve, consult with your pediatrician or a pediatric speech and language pathologist to determine if a visit to an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat Specialist) is appropriate to determine a specific diagnosis and treatment plan.

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