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What is vocal hygiene and how can I look after my child’s voice?

May 25, 2020
What is vocal hygiene and how can I look after my child’s voice?

We support our children to look after their personal hygiene, including brushing their teeth and having a bath, however do you know how to help look after your child’s voice? 

What is Vocal Hygiene? 

Vocal hygiene refers to the steps we take to look after the quality of our voice. This may include reducing behaviours that can harm the voice and changing our environment to use a healthy voice volume.  

What might indicate a problem with your child’s voice: 

  • A husky, breathy or hoarse sounding voice.  
  • Sounding too quiet to hear, especially when there is background noise.  
  • Having a sore or scratchy throat after talking. 
  • Feeling like it takes a lot of effort for your child to use their voice. 

It is estimated that approximately 5% of children experience a voice problem that is long lasting. Most voice problems are harmless and disappear without the help of a professional. In some cases, strain on the vocal folds can cause inflammation or polyps (small growths) on the vocal folds which could require speech therapy or surgery.  

Vocal Behaviours that can impact on a child’s voice:

  • Excessive crying or tantrums.
  • Excessive shouting or loud talking.
  • Frequent coughing or throat clearing.
  • Allergies or irritants resulting in frequent coughing or throat clearing.
  • Making lots of loud sound effects.
  • Common colds or viruses.
     

Vocal Hygiene Tips:

  • Our voices need a break when we have been talking for a long time. Give your child time to rest their voice and have quiet time throughout the day.  
  • Turn down the volume of music or television to reduce how loudly you or your child needs to talk.
  • Try to encourage your child to get closer to the person they want to talk to, rather than yelling from a distance. 
  • Drink plenty of water. 
  • Praise your child when you hear them using a ‘gentle’ voice. 
  • Model a ‘healthy’ voice where you speak at a comfortable volume.  
  • Avoid exposure to smoke, dust or other irritants.  
  • Encourage your child to use good breath support by slowing down when talking for a long time and taking breaths when needed.  

Our voice helps us to express ourselves, including our personality, emotions and ideas. It is an important part of our everyday life and we can help our children to maintain healthy vocal hygiene.  Having a hoarse voice for a few hours or a day is not a worry, however if it lasts for days, weeks or months then it is recommended you see your General Practitioner or a Speech Pathologist.  


References  

Speech Pathology Australia, Voice Fact Sheet https://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/SPAweb/Resources_for_the_Public 

Voice Disorder, The Royal Children’s Hospital Voice Department, 2018
https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Voice_disorders/