Hi! My name is Lynette Belford and I have some information for you on Voice Problems of Children. (3rd Edition by D. Kenneth Wilson, Wililams and Wilkens, 1987).
Good vocal hygiene simply means keeping our voices healthy and avoiding activities that could do harm. Most of us rarely think about our voices. Except for the occasional sore throat, our voices are usually in good working order. But imagine trying to talk and only being able to produce a croak that can barely be heard.
The incidence of voice disorders in children (age 18 and under) is approximately 6 - 9 %. Some children are born with defects of the larynx (voice box), some experience trauma (such as getting hit with a ball) and some abuse their voice. The following are examples of vocal abuse:
- cheering *up to 59% of cheerleaders experience voice problems
- strained vocalizations... imitation of car, truck and airplane noises
- excessive talking
- vocalizing on inhalation...talking as you breath IN rather that breath OUT
- throat clearing
- unnatural routinely talking in a higher or lower pitch than what comes natural for you
These abusive activities can result in the formation of nodules, polyps, lesions or ulcers on the vocal cords that may require therapy from speech-language pathologist or surgery. Signs that one of these has developed are a harsh, hoarse or breathy quality of voice that persists. Kids are not the only ones at risk for voice disorders. Singers, actors, ministers, teachers, salespeople, attorneys, telephone operators, public officials and T.V. personalities are all at risk due to excessively using their voice.
To keep your voice, or your child's voice healthy keep the following in mind:
- Refrain from screaming
- Refrain from shouting. Encourage children to close the distance between himself and the person they are shouting to.
- Keep background noise to a minimum so you or your child can be heard when speaking without needing to talk louder.
- Encourage children to say "vroom" or other sounds rather than a throaty sound when playing with cars/trucks/planes. Also, discourage them from talking in a "monster" voice.
- Refrain from making throat clearing a habit. Try swallowing to clear your throat for a gentler throat clear.
- Use your natural voice. Discourage children from routinely trying to sound higher or lower in pitch. Your natural voice is what you produce when you sigh.
- Drink and encourage your child to drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids. This will keep your vocal cords well lubricated.
- Give it a rest! If your voice feels tired or your child's voice starts to sound weak, change activities to something that doesn't require much talking (example: coloring, putting together a puzzle, or listening to someone else read a book).
Good vocal hygiene should reduce you or your child's risk of developing a voice disorder. But if you suspect that you or your child is developing a vocal pathology, contact your general physician/pediatrician or an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor.