Published: Jan. 20, 2010
Updated: Aug. 4, 2011
Vocal misuse is using the voice in a way that causes it to be injured. These behaviors can lead to vocal fold lesions (bumps or calluses on the vocal folds), and in some cases can cause permanent damage to the voice.
Examples of vocal misuse include:
Vocal overuse is using the voice too much, so that it gets overly tired. This can lead to an increased risk of vocal fold injury.
If your voice feels tired or gives out easily, you may be overusing your voice. Examples of vocal overuse include talking and/or singing for too long.
The vocal folds are made up of layers of delicate tissue. When you use your voice to make a sound, the vocal folds vibrate or come together.
If they vibrate in an easy, gentle way the voice works well, but if the vocal folds come together in a hard or forceful way, they can be injured.
It’s like clapping your hands. If you clap them softly, you make a sound and your hands don’t hurt. If you clap your hands together hard, they will start to tingle, and then hurt, and will become red and irritated. If you continue this hard clapping, you might get blisters on your hands.
Yelling, screaming, throat clearing, coughing, and even loud talking can all bring the vocal folds together in a hard and forceful way and can cause vocal fold injury.
Talking a lot can also hurt your vocal folds. Your vocal folds come together about 100-200 times per second when you are talking. That can add up to millions of times per day if you are talking for many hours.
All that contact can cause wear and tear on your vocal cords. If they don’t get a chance to rest and recover, they can become injured over time. Many styles of singing bring the vocal folds together in a forceful way, too.
Athletes and dancers carefully warm up their muscles to avoid injuring themselves, and they get lots of training to learn to use their bodies without injuring themselves. Singing is the “athleticism” of voice use. Warming up your voice before singing and getting training in how to sing well can help you avoid injuring your voice.