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Help! My Voice Feels Tired!

Written by: Katarina Hornakova, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

We communicate in different ways than we did 2 years ago. We spend more time on video calls than ever before. And our voices suffer. It is now more common for people to feel vocally tired, have a hoarse voice or even lose their voice by the end of the day than in pre-pandemic years. If you are experiencing similar difficulties, you are definitely not alone!


Is using your voice on video-conferencing platforms harder than in one-on-one communication? I am not sure if it is harder but for many of us it is a new way of communication and we need to learn how to do it efficiently.

But How Are They Different?


The truth is that we use our voices differently in different environments or with different communication partners. Your voice is different when you speak to your boss and when you talk to a toddler. And it is also true for using your voice online and offline. There are several differences between an online conversation and in-person communication. A video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat because we are missing a lot of non-verbal cues like facial expressions, voice cues, or body language. Whenever we feel that our listener does not understand what we are saying, we increase our vocal effort and often raise the volume of our voice, which puts strain on the voice.


Also, we compete with the background noise of the environment we are in or our listener is in. For example, if you are on a group call where every participant is in their home environment with kids crying, dogs barking and neighbours cutting the grass exactly at the time of your conference call, you reflexively raise your voice. This is a reflex that kicks in even during personal communication, for example, in loud restaurants or noisy pubs. This is a natural reflex for speakers to increase their vocal effort when speaking over loud noise to enhance the audibility of their voice. We all do it, but it happens more often on video calls.


Here is another reason why we raise our vocal effort on Zoom: when we see our communication partners on a monitor in a tiny window, our brain interprets it as the person being far away. What do you do when a person is far away? You naturally raise the volume of your voice.


The number of people on the Zoom call may also trigger the use of more vocal effort or louder speech. Just the illusion of talking to a group of people may trigger louder speech. Our brain simply thinks that a bigger group requires more volume.


And then add the stress of being watched on the monitor by other people. The pressure is on and this of course causes more strain and constriction in our throats.


5 Tips to Maintain a Healthy Voice


What can we do to protect our voice from getting vocally tired and to avoid losing our voice after talking on Zoom? Here are 5 tips to maintain a happy voice:


1. Be mindful of the loudness of your own voice

Simply, become aware of how loud you are talking. There is no need to project your voice. If people cannot hear you, adjust the settings on your mic or ask them to increase the volume on their end. Be animated and involved in the conversation while keeping your volume at a normal conversational level. Use gestures to get your point across to help people understand what you are saying.


2. Schedule vocal rests

If possible, limit the time you spend on video calls. Don’t talk online all day long. Schedule periods of time where you engage in quiet activities, like writing emails or reading documents. Finding time to rest your voice will go a long way to maintaining good vocal health.


3. Use a good microphone

All our laptops and computers have built-in microphones and speakers. For the most part these tools work just fine, but it is a good idea to invest in a good microphone or an audio system that can help prevent vocal strain.


4. Use your whole body when speaking

The muscles in your larynx are very small. Don’t rely solely on them. Engage the big body muscles to provide a stable framework and support for your voice. When you are talking to your boss in person, your body is not relaxed. Don’t speak from a relaxed body when you are on Zoom. Improve your posture, align your body well and maintain that muscle engagement to prevent vocal fatigue.


5. Release tension after you speak on Zoom

If you start feeling that your voice is getting tired or weak, release tension from your voice either with gentle humming or a manual self-massage. Release tension that has accumulated in your voice with these simple techniques that are very effective and take only a few minutes.


It is recommended that you have your voice assessed by a voice specialist if you observe changes in voice quality for more than 2 weeks without the presence of acute infection, such as a common cold or flu. Recurrent vocal fatigue, hoarseness or voice strain are definitely good reasons to speak to your doctor and ask for an ENT referral (more specifically for a visit to a laryngologist who can assess your voice).


Follow these tips to maintain a healthy voice that will last all day long!


Follow Katarina on her Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and visit her website for more info.


 

Katarina Hornakova, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Katarina Hornakova is a licensed speech-language pathologist, vocal health coach and educator with 20+ years of experience working with diverse groups of people from all corners of the world, including speakers, singers, musicians, teachers, presenters, voice over actors, entrepreneurs, yoga instructors, health educators, and others. She has published several books and articles on speech, language and voice disorders. Katarina is most passionate about helping people who experience vocal tension, strain or even pain when speaking, find more vocal ease and confidence to share their message with the people around them. Her mission is to give voice to those who have lost it. She continues to develop her deep fascination with the human voice through the Estill Voice System model, which formed her belief that “every voice is beautiful”. Katarina has helped hundreds of people discover their true vocal potential. She is a curious life-long learner herself who loves to meet new people, cook, and travel.

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