UT Health Physicians

Voice Care

Beginning, or refining, a voice care program is the first step in taking better care of your voice and is essential for vocal cords that have been hurt or stressed. Whether you rely on your voice for regular activities or for your livelihood, you can begin taking better care of your voice today using these tips.


Hydration refers to keeping the vocal cords moist both externally and internally. External dehydration may come from breathing dry air, breathing with an open mouth, smoking and certain drying medications. Vocal cords can be rehydrated by inhaling steam (i.e. hot shower, facial steamer, hot-water vaporizer). Internal dehydration comes from too much caffeine, alcohol, drying drugs or sweating without fluid replacement. Internal rehydration is probably best achieved by drinking plenty of water.

Putting this into practice:

  • Make an effort to carry water with you throughout the day. Try to sip small amounts frequently rather than gulp down a large amount at once.
  • Replace coffee, tea and sodas with water.
  • If you don’t like water, mix a small amount of juice or flavoring into your water. For example, half water and half juice or flavoring. Gradually decrease the amount of juice or flavoring.
  • The following amounts are estimates for healthy individuals without conflicting medical conditions:
    • Men: 3.0 liters (101 ounces) or approximately six (16 oz.) bottles of water a day
    • Women: 2.2 liters (74 ounces) or approximately four (16 oz.) bottles of water a day

Manage your mucous

Bothersome mucous can cause people to frequently clear their throats or have the sensation something is on their vocal cords. Your doctor may advise you to take a medication, called a mucolytic, that helps to keep respiratory secretions thin and flowing. The most common mucolytic is Mucinex or guaifenesin.

Putting this into practice:

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Ask your doctor if a mucolytic medication would be helpful.
  • If mucous continues to be problematic, discuss the possibility of reflux with your doctor.  Reflux of stomach acids into the throat may be responsible for sensations of throat mucous.
  • Helpful tools for mucous management (English) (Spanish Version)

Stop throat clearing

Throat clearing is extremely traumatic to your vocal cords and can cause excess wear and tear. Bothersome mucous can cause the sensation that something is on the vocal cords that needs to clear off. The irritation and swelling produced by the throat clearing can cause saliva to sit in your throat. This causes more throat clearing. More throat clearing causes more stagnant mucus which causes more throat clearing, which causes more mucus. A vicious cycle will ensue and the habit can be very difficult to break.

Putting this into practice:

  • Begin by trying to suppress the throat clearing.
  • When the feeling is present, try swallowing hard or sipping on water.
  • If necessary, clear your throat silently. For example, when you close your vocal cords, think of picking up a 1/2 lb. weight instead of a 100 lb. weight.
  • Ask your doctor if a mucolytic or reflux medication would be helpful.

Irritating your voice

“Everything in moderation.” This sage advice is especially true when it comes to your voice. Compare your vocal cords to your legs. You would not expect to run a long distance and then later do a hour-long leg work out in the gym. Similarly, you should not talk all day at work and then head out for an evening of yelling or talking over noise.

Putting this into practice:

  • Avoid lengthy conversations on the phone.
  • Rest your voice 10 minutes for every two hours of talking.
  • Talk at a moderate volume. To do this, you frequently have to minimize background noise such as television, radio, party noise, traffic, airplanes and restaurants.
  • Avoid shouting and screaming. These traumatize the vocal cords.
  • Smoking is very hard on your voice causing chronic irritation and dehydration.
  • Maintain good water intake and consider using a hot water humidifier at night when traveling to dry environments such as Las Vegas and Phoenix. Airplanes are notoriously dry environments. If traveling by plane, increase your water intake accordingly.
  • Antihistamines and decongestants are commonly found in cold and allergy medications. These have a drying effect on the vocal cords which is detrimental. Common medications include Benadryl, Zyrtec, Allegro, Claritin, Sudafed, and any other antihistamines.