The Hot Singer Dilemma

The Hot Singer Dilemma

How keeping cool when it’s hot out can be a challenge for your vocal health

Singing into a fan

          ‘Tis the season when singers and other voice users start to realize a real unpredictability in their vocal health. Some days we wake up with throats as dry as desert sands and then the next day our voices work perfectly fine. There are several reasons for this anomaly. Much of it has to do with the humidity (amount of water vapour or moisture in the air), and we all know that with summer comes “exciting” fluctuations in humidity. There are actually many misconceptions about how humidity can affect the voice and its physiology or inner workings.

          Low Humidity is a decrease in the water content of the air. In the summer, this decrease is often caused by air conditioning, dehumidifiers, or prolonged exposure to being in the direct trajectory of a fan.  In the winter, this is just a natural result of the cooler air not allowing as much moisture to enter a vapour state. When you inhale this dry or cooled air, the mucous membrane linings of your throat and vocal folds that keep them lubricated begin to lose moisture as well. This causes stiffening and a decrease in function. Often, we wake up in very low humidities with our voices already feeling tired. This is a result of our vocal folds and resonating spaces (the pharynx) being more difficult to maneuver when not properly lubricated. It has also been suggested that low humidity provides more opportunity for some viral and bacterial infections to infect the upper airways (particularly new research on the flu virus).

          To avoid these low humidity conditions avoid excessive use of dehumidifiers and prolonged periods of time in highly air conditioned environments. This is especially of concern for those of us who travel a lot and use the air conditioning in our cars. Make sure it is never pointed directly at you, and use rolled down windows whenever possible as a substitute.

Attention: The VoiceNotes in no way condones singing whilst standing in a moving vehicle

Attention: The VoiceNotes does not condone singing whilst standing in a moving vehicle

          Some people like to escape the heat by retreating to malls and other highly air-conditioned locales. While this does provide a much-needed relief from the heat, remember to not spend too much time in these kinds of environments. Often the air conditioning in such places is left on constantly at high levels, which can completely dry out the air. It only takes a couple hours of breathing in this kind of dry air to start doing some damage. If for some reason you do have to spend an extended period of time in a place that is highly air-conditioned, try and make an effort to breathe through your nose (as singers I know this is a bit counter-intuitive and not our first instinct typically). Breathing in through your nose actually warms and dampens the air so that it isn’t as damaging to your pharynx or vocal folds (This can also be a helpful tip if you are walking or running outside in the cold, especially winter).

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