Think about the art of conversation, particularly how we communicate with one another. Often, the typical back-and-forth is characterized by a mixture of hearing someone’s words and watching their mouth as they speak.
But that was before COVID-19 necessitated wearing masks in public. It is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the virus, but that means we’re all relying solely on hearing and listening when in conversation, and you’ve likely noticed some changes in your interactions. Maybe you’re repeating yourself more often, or talking louder than normal—and you probably aren’t drinking enough water.
Masks will be part of our routine for the foreseeable future, so some of our speech therapists at the Regional Therapy Center put together a list of things you can do to improve your vocal hygiene:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! The Mayo Clinic recommends approximately 11.5 cups of water per day for women, and 15.5 cups per day for men, so aiming for approximately 8 ounces per hour is a good amount to increase your intake and lubricate your vocal cords.
- Avoid smoking, vaping, and second-hand smoke, all of which aggravate vocal fold tissue and make it difficult to speak. Caffeine and alcohol have that affect, too, so be mindful of how much you are drinking.
- If you have to speak for long periods of time, allow for vocal rest at the end of the day—at least 10 minutes for every hour you spend talking. Try to avoid yelling or raising your voice to gain attention, and consider clapping or turning the lights on and off.
- Practice mindful, deep diaphragmatic breathing each hour for approximately 2-3 minutes. Find a private place where you can socially distance and safely remove your mask.
- Keep throat tension to a minimum with neck, shoulder, and arm stretches. Use abdominal breathing when you’re speaking with your mask on.
The Regional Therapy Center at Saratoga Hospital offers comprehensive speech therapy programs to address the specific needs of each individual patient. If you are struggling, ask your primary care provider for a referral, or call 518-583-8383 for more information.
Monday – Thursday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Friday: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Extended hours, by appointment:
Monday: 7:30 AM – 8:00 AM
Tuesday and Thursday: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM