Managing Voice Fatigue

Does your voice feel tired at the end of the day? Perhaps it becomes effortful to talk or you struggle to be heard over background noise. You may be a teacher who finds that by week 9 of term you’re left with minimal voice. Vocal fatigue can happen to anyone who demands a lot of their voice. It can lead to loss of income, withdrawing from social events and general frustration.

Many of us don’t realise the huge demand that we place on our voices each day. From talking on the phone, video calls, workplace meetings, coaching sport or simply socialising in noisy environments. All that talking and yelling can leave your voice feeling tired, you may experience throat discomfort or you may find you have deterioration of your voice quality, leaving your voice sounding strained or hoarse.

Your voice is produced by airflow from your lungs causing your vocal folds to come together to vibrate very quickly. The average male speaking voice will create around 120 vocal cord contacts per second and a female speaking voice will increase to 220 times per second. For muscles smaller than a 10 cent piece, that’s really fast and a lot of work! Increasing pitch in an activity such as singing will result in even faster vibrations and more vocal fold contacts per second.

It can be difficult to predict what your load may be on any given day but some professions have higher vocal load due to the nature of their work. People who rely on their voice for work (professional voice users) may have demands that look a little like this:

  • A fitness instructor teaching 3 hours of classes in an evening
  • A lawyer presenting at court for the day
  • A primary school teacher without non-contact time in an acoustically loud environment
  • A radio presenter working for 3 hours on-air
  • A call-centre operator on the phones for 7 hours
  • An events coordinator communicating on a headset for an evening
  • A person taking orders in a noisy bar or restaurant
  • A sales representative speaking to customers for extended periods
  • A parent at home with young children
  • A singer who does a 3 hour set in the evening after working 8 hours during the day

Balance is key to managing your vocal load. If you have a particularly heavy load, it’s important to find short periods to rest your voice to counteract the prolonged vocal cord contact during long periods of talking or singing. Even a 15-20 minute vocal nap during the day can help with reducing vocal strain and mild inflammation.

Here are some suggestions for balancing your vocal load and managing voice fatigue:

  • Find 20-60 mins during the day to send incoming calls to voicemail
  • Let your work team know that during certain times you’d prefer to communicate via email/text/group messaging where possible
  • Engage in story time with your children but ask an older child to read to the younger child
  • Instead of singing along to music in the car at the end of the day, take the opportunity to listen or put on a podcast so you’re not using your voice
  • Use a headset to make phonecalls rather than using a speaker phone
  • Choose a quieter venue for a social catch up or sit outside away from music to avoid having to yell over background noise.
  • Teachers can time “quiet activities” such as reading after a lesson of extended voice use

Your vocal cords are truly incredible in what they can do. With care and a little rest they will continue to serve you well for a long time.

If you’re experiencing persisting problems with vocal fatigue, consider seeing an Ear Nose and Throat surgeon who specialises in voice for an assessment. Adelaide Voice Therapy would be happy to help you develop a sustainable plan for your voice use and work with you on any voice production issues that may be contributing to your vocal fatigue.

Need help with your voice, a chronic cough, upper airway disorder or swallowing?

Adelaide Voice Therapy is here to help! We offer both in-person & online therapy. Our experienced speech pathologists aim to offer the highest quality, personalised care to our patients. Book online today!