The HOTTER Singer Dilemma

The HOTTER Singer Dilemma

Why more moisture in the air isn’t necessarily a good thing for your voice


man singing and dancing under water

          High Humidity is often overlooked when thinking about vocal issues because we have been taught: voice + moisture = good! From the earlier discussion about low humidity, we know that moisture is important for proper lubrication of the mucous membranes lining much of our vocal apparatus (vocal folds, pharynx, etc), but excessive humidity also has negative effects on the voice. Remember that hotter weather often results in an increase in evaporation and therefore an increase in the water vapour in the air, so high humidity is typically a problem in these warmer temperatures.

water sweating

          When you get hot and the temperature outside starts to match your internal temperature, your body physiology reacts in an attempt to cool you down (i.e. sweating). The problem is that sweating only works if the sweat is able to evapourate from your skin. With high moisture content in the air, the water and sweat actually doesn’t favour vapourization, but rather just sits on the surface and causes increases in your overall temperature. With this increase in temperature, the body has to work harder, and exhausts water and energy resources to prevent overheating. This leads to vocal fatigue and a decrease in function.


          Another physiological response to rising core temperature is to send blood to the external surfaces of our body (skin). Blood is charged with the responsibility of controlling nutrient and heat dispersion throughout the body. Therefore, by increasing blood flow to the skin (why our skin starts to turn red when we feel hot), heat is allowed to escape into the environment around us. The problem with this response is that it takes blood and nutrients (like oxygen) away from muscles and other tissues that require it. This in turn can also lead to a decrease function of the muscles involved in vocal production and result in fatigue or even damage if the voice is being used excessively in these conditions.



          One other negative effect of high humidity is that it often enhances the amount of dust, mold, and other air-borne allergens. The allergic responses that result are your body’s attempt to rid itself of the foreign particles. These reactions disrupt air passages, mucous membranes, and other physiological processes that ultimately lead to negative effects on the vocal apparatus.


          It is therefore important to make sure you are regulating the humidity in your house with a modest use of a dehumidifier and occasional use of air conditioning, if possible. Excessive use of these attempts to lower humidity can also have negative effects on your voice, but ultimately maintaining a moderate environmental humidity and staying hydrated on these days of high humidity is the most ideal for good vocal health and function.


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