The majority of voice disorders are hyperfunctional in nature. Meaning there is too much activity going on in the throat. The voice box is made up of joints, cartilage, ligaments and muscle, just like your shoulders, hips and knees. Normal voice production is about the balance of 3 things: airflow moving in and out, the vocal folds being set into regular periodic vibrations, and resonance or how the sound travels through your head. When the muscles and ligaments are too active, they work against each other creating an imbalance, instead of working together in a balanced fashion, and thereby choke off the voice, vs. freeing it.
Using a straw to aid in the rehabilitation of voice disorders is not new, however has gained some increased attention recently with UK pop singer Sam Smith recovering from phonosurgery, or surgery for the voice. He posted some of the exercises he has been prescribed to aid in his vocal recovery https://goo.gl/q2E7RA.
The goal in any vocal rehabilitation regimen is to use tasks which minimize vocal strain, where no further harm can be done, and to optimize normal vocal physiology. Using a straw while voicing is called a semi-occluded vocal tract (SOVT) task. You can start with a regular sized straw or smaller. Blow through the straw by itself, or while blowing bubbles in water with the straw just below the surface, while voicing at the same time, could be humming. These tasks increase the length of the vocal tract, encourage more airflow, as well as provide some resistance and back pressure on top of the vocal folds which helps to minimize some of the strain associated with the voice disorder. People often find one of these tasks more beneficial than the other, so it’s always worth trying both. Further explanation of straw voicing including video demonstration can be found here http://goo.gl/I5gdrr. Always focus on how does this sound and feel compared to how you normally use your voice. Straw voicing can be used to warm-up, cool-down and refresh your voice throughout the day.
Take care of your voice! It’s the only one you have. You can almost always improve upon voice quality, performance, and recovery. Contact Voicetrainer LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-580-6646 with questions or to schedule an appointment.