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Improving Vocal Habits


This article provides advice on how to minimize inefficient or harmful vocal habits.

Eliminating vocal misuse and abuse

Generally, vocal misuse and abuse refers to using the voice in potentially harmful ways and/or exposing the voice to potentially damaging situations, medications, and similar. For example:

  • exposure to second-hand smoke
  • food allergies
  • bulimia
  • frequent coughing
  • excessive throat clearing
  • shouting/yelling

In principle, therefore, we should try to eliminate as many causes of vocal misuse and abuse as possible. Failure to do so has two potential outcomes:

Abnormal vocal fold vibration

The vocal folds vibrate abnormally, owing to such things as excessive muscle strain and the vocal folds being brought together with too much force.

Structural changes

Structural changes, such as inflammation, swelling, vocal nodules and polyps – these can often be eliminated through good vocal hygiene and good voice production techniques.

Voice care

In general, the following recommendations are applicable to both adults and children and will assist you in eliminating possible causes of vocal misuse and abuse.


  • sip water
  • take steam inhalations
  • rest your voice
  • use non-verbal signals to gain attention
  • talk to others in quiet environments


  • talk/sing loudly
  • shout
  • whisper
  • talk for long periods with a throat infection
  • use character voices (impersonations)
  • speak over large distances
  • speak over background noise
  • clear your throat

A more complete account of helpful recommendations (either for adults or for children) can be found through the following links.

Download voice care for adults information

Download voice care for children information

Throat clearing

Repeatedly and frequently clearing the throat can be quite damaging to the vocal folds. Often we are unaware that we are doing this. If this has become a habit (i.e. it’s not the result of a current bout of flu, respiratory condition, side effect of medication, and similar) then it’s important to try and eradicate this as much as possible.

Click for advice on how to stop throat clearing.

Further reading

Minimizing inefficient or harmful vocal habits (including eliminating throat clearing) is a suggested action for lessening the symptoms of functional dysphonia. Other suggestions include:

Symptoms and causes of functional dysphonia

1. Understanding symptoms and causes of functional dysphonia

Voice production

2. Understanding voice production

Improving vocal habits

3. Improving vocal habits (this article)

Effective voice production

4. Using effective voice production techniques

Managing the speaking environment

5. Managing the speaking environment

Maximizing your physical and emotional health

6. Maximizing your physical and emotional health