Open Letter to American Idol Contestants (especially Casey and James) on Vocal Abuse

Dear American Idol contestants,

Like the millions of other viewers I have been enjoying this season of American Idol.  (I will admit I was a bit underwhelmed this week; however I loved the Bon Jovi and Nirvana song selections.)  I’ve noticed that several of the contestants have been battling sickness and have been forced to sing on (the show must go on) and as a Speech Pathologist I am worried.  VOCAL ABUSE!! Do I have your attention? I hope so because this is something that can be detrimental to a professional voice users prize possession….their voice.  Let’s work together to protect those sweet melodies shall we?

In case I do not have your attention…

VOCAL NODULE (if you weren't sure and thought I snuck in a dirty pic, this is a pic of the vocal folds)

 Vocal Nodules are unsexified. 

  • Localized benign growths ON vocal folds (commonly called vocal cords)
  • Primary Symptom – Hoarseness
  • Caused by frequent vocal abuse
  • Most frequent among women 20-50 years
  • Also occurs in children (loud talkers/screamers)
VOCAL POLYP (let’s stop these before they start y’all)

Vocal Polyps (trust me you do not want one)

  • Large mass IN vocal fold (often on lamina propria)
  • Primary Symptom – hoarseness, roughness or breathiness.  May feel like there is “something in the throat”
  • Often results from a period of vocal abuse but can occur after a SINGLE traumatic (vocal) incident

General Tips for The Preservation of Voice

  • Professional voice users MUST preserve their voice
  • Stay hydrated (moist hydrated vocal folds are happy vocal folds)
  • Avoid dairy products before public speaking/professional singing (dairy increases phlegm production)
  • Be aware that some medications dehydrate vocal folds (allergy meds)
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking (all these things dehydrate vocal folds, while smoking involves blasting these delicate membranes with SUPERHEATED toxic air)
  • Employ good posture/diaphragmatic breathing
  • Reduce your amount of talking when possible (limit needless talking before a performance-I believe Celine Dion employs this technique)
  • Reduce your loudness (do NOT talk “over noise”)
  • Identify, reduce and eliminate vocal abuse
  • Use amplification devices/microphones if they are available

In closing, as a fan and as a speech professional I realize that a certain amount of vocal abuse may always remain a part of your professional life.  I just ask that you be aware that there are things you can do when you are not on stage to preserve the voice you have…so that your career can be a long and successful one.
Your Friendly Speech Pathologist
P.S. Don’t be a Vocal Abuser, employ good Vocal Hygiene!