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Hydration for Voice Actors

By Joe Davis. Published Apr 25, 2023. Last Updated: May 23, 2023.
Filed Under: Vocal Health

Proper hydration is crucial for voice actors as it ensures the optimal functioning of their vocal folds. As a voice actor, it is important to understand significance of internal and external hydration, as well as the impact of medications on hydration and voice health.

Internal Hydration

Maintaining well-hydrated vocal folds is essential for a voice actor as it allows for smooth movement and reduces the risk of vocal injury. Good hydration also thins the mucus coating on the vocal folds, enabling them to move against each other effortlessly and vibrate smoothly.

To achieve proper internal hydration, consider the following tips:

  • Drink at least 64 ounces (1.9 liters) of water daily, ideally consuming eight 8-ounce servings.
  • Gradually increase your water intake if you currently drink less than the recommended amount.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption as they can dehydrate the body, affecting the vocal folds.
  • Stay hydrated in dry environments by increasing your water intake.
  • If plain water is unappealing, try flavoring it with fruit, sugar-free drink mixes, or caffeine-free tea.
  • Consume water-rich foods like cucumbers, melons, grapes, and gelatin to aid hydration.

External Hydration

External hydration refers to moistening the vocal folds from the outside. Here are some methods to achieve external hydration:

  • Steam inhalation: Inhale steam for three to five minutes, two or three times per day. This can be done through shower steam, personal steamers, hot water in a sink or basin, or by using a hot washcloth held over your mouth and nose.
  • Room humidification: Use a hot-water vaporizer or room humidifier to maintain a humidity level of 30-50% in your living or working space. Avoid cool-mist vaporizers as they can release chemicals and germs into the air. Make sure to clean the humidifier or vaporizer regularly to prevent germ buildup. If you have mold or mildew allergies, refrain from using humidifiers or vaporizers.

Medications and Hydration

Many medications, particularly cold and allergy medications, can dehydrate the body. To counteract this effect, consider the following:

  • Consult your doctor before changing your water intake or medications.
  • Drink extra water if you're taking dehydrating medications.
  • Use mucolytic medications containing guaifenesin, such as Humibid, Mucinex, or Robitussin, to help thin mucus. However, these medications are only effective if you are well-hydrated.
  • Avoid cough drops and throat lozenges containing menthol or eucalyptus, as they can be drying. Instead, opt for glycerin, pectin, or slippery elm lozenges such as Grether's Pastilles, Thayers Slippery Elm Lozenges, or Halls Breezers.

Vocal Misuse and Overuse

Vocal misuse refers to using the voice in ways that can cause injury, such as yelling, screaming, throat clearing, loud talking, whispering, and singing without proper warm-up or training. Vocal overuse, on the other hand, is using the voice excessively, leading to fatigue and an increased risk of injury.

Vocal fold injuries can be caused by the forceful contact of the vocal folds, as seen in activities like yelling, screaming, or even loud talking. Continuous talking can also wear down the vocal cords due to the millions of vibrations they experience throughout the day. Proper singing training and warm-ups can help prevent vocal injuries by ensuring the voice is used correctly.

Maintaining proper hydration is essential for voice actors to ensure optimal vocal fold function and overall vocal health. By following the guidelines for internal and external hydration and being mindful of medication effects, voice actors can safeguard their voices and reduce the risk of injury.

In addition to hydration, voice actors should adopt healthy vocal habits and techniques to protect their voices. Here are some suggestions for maintaining a healthy voice:

  • Warm-up exercises: Just like athletes, voice actors should warm up their voices before performances or recording sessions. This helps prepare the vocal folds for use and reduces the risk of injury.
  • Vocal rest: Giving your voice regular breaks is essential to avoid overuse and strain. Schedule periods of vocal rest throughout the day, especially if you have been speaking or performing for extended periods.
  • Proper technique: Invest in voice training to learn proper speaking and singing techniques. This can help minimize vocal strain and promote a healthier voice.
  • Posture and breath support: Good posture and breath support are crucial for vocal health. Maintain an upright position while speaking or singing to ensure your diaphragm and lungs are working efficiently.
  • Avoid irritants: Refrain from smoking and limit exposure to second-hand smoke, as it can damage the vocal folds. Avoid consuming spicy foods, as they can cause acid reflux, which may harm the vocal cords.
  • Monitor vocal changes: Pay attention to any changes in your voice, such as hoarseness, loss of range, or vocal fatigue. If you notice persistent issues, consult a medical professional or voice specialist.
  • Stress management: Stress can negatively impact the voice by causing muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or exercise to promote overall well-being and vocal health.

Proper hydration plays a vital role in maintaining the health of a voice actor's vocal folds. Alongside hydration, voice actors should also practice healthy vocal habits, such as warming up, using proper techniques, and giving their voices adequate rest. By following these recommendations, voice actors can enjoy a long and successful career while preserving the quality and longevity of their voices.

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