Voice in the Time of Corona

Advice from the Voice Lady – Rena Cook

“Help, I caught something and I have lost my voice – what should I do?” I hear that a lot these days. As your personal “Voice Lady,” I want to offer a few suggestions that might help us use our voices better as we navigate the Time of Corona.

First, for those of you who are already feeling the effects of seasonal allergies, cold or flu, your voice may be scratchy, hoarse, painful or trigger coughing. Your vocal folds are inflamed and swollen. My first advice is vocal rest and hydration. Don’t talk anymore that you absolutely have to and drink lots of water.

If you have to continue speaking, don’t press for more volume. That will further irritate your already inflamed vocal folds. As you speak, lengthen the back of your neck, which makes more space at the back of your mouth and throat, allowing the vocal folds to vibrate more freely. Bring your chin parallel to the floor, which also makes more space. Open your mouth a little wider as you speak. This helps you speak more clearly and easily.

Breathe a more deeply and gently engage your abdominal muscles as you speak. This provides more support to your vocal folds and helps to power your voice when its volume is diminished by the inflammation.

Finally, pitch up to the middle of your range. When we are sick and our voice is not healthy, it wants to sit on the bottom of the pitch range, using our lowest notes. Though it may feel easier, it is actually more effortful for those vocal folds. Use the middle of the pitch range where it is easier and clearer. Simply lengthen the back of the neck, which I discussed earlier. This will help lift the pitch. Also, think bigger space in the back of the mouth.

Even when the rest of you is feeling better, your voice may still feel scratchy or husky. The swelling and inflammation in the vocal folds can be stubborn. Don’t despair and don’t press for more. Lengthen the back of the neck, lower the chin, breathe deeply and drink lots of water.

We are dealing with disconcerting and stressful times right now, as we navigate the new normal of the Coronavirus.  You can make it a little bit easier by showing your voice some love. I am here if you have questions or concerns. Find me on Facebook, LinkedIn or at myvocalauthority.com. Stay healthy, breathe deeply and continue to speak your truth boldly!


Rena Cook

Rena Cook is Professor Emerita at the University of Oklahoma. She is a TEDx speaker, author, voice, speech, confidence, and presentation coach. She is the founder of Vocal Authority, a training consultancy serving attorneys who want to use their voice in more commanding and authentic ways. She has authored several books, including Her Voice in Law, which she co-wrote with Laurie Koller. The book provides additional advice on the above topics and more, and is available at https://www.americanbar.org/.

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