Voice cracking in the middle of a conversation or important presentation may feel embarrassing for many people. But don’t worry, it happens to almost everyone at some point or another (although it is more common during puberty).
In this article, we will explore...
- the causes and types of voice cracking,
- treatment and breathing exercises for voice cracking, and
- some tips for taking care of the voice
Let’s get started.
What is a Voice Crack?
When a person’s voice suddenly breaks or changes tone in the middle of a sentence, it’s called a voice crack and often results in a high-pitched or squeaky sound. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. It can happen when you speak, sing, or even laugh.
It’s most common during puberty, when the larynx (or voice box) grows and changes in size and shape due to hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. This growth and thickening cause the pitch of the voice to lower and become more stable over time. However, this process is not always smooth, and the changes can happen rapidly, resulting in a temporary loss of control over the voice.
Causes of Voice Cracks
Physical Causes: They can occur when the vocal cords become too tense for the speaker to continue at their current pitch. This could be due to…
- vocal fatigue from talking for long periods of time,
- allergies that cause throat irritation,
- acid reflux, or
- an inability to take deep breaths properly.
Psychological Causes: Stress and anxiety can cause the vocal cords to tighten and result in a cracking voice. Fear of public speaking is one common example that can lead to cracking during presentations. Other emotional states such as embarrassment or excitement can also cause people’s voices to crack.
It is important to identify what causes your voice cracks in order to find the best solution for them. If you are consistently experiencing voice breaks due to physical tension in the vocal cords, relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation may help reduce tension and allow you to speak more clearly. If your vocal cracks are due to psychological stressors like fear of public speaking, it might be beneficial to practice public speaking skills in a safe environment before giving a speech in front of an audience.
Types of Voice Cracks
- The Classic Crack: This is the most common type of voice crack and occurs when a person’s vocal muscles become too tense to maintain their current pitch. It is often caused by vocal fatigue, dehydration, allergies, or improper breathing technique.
- The High-Pitched Crack: This usually happens due to excitement or embarrassment, and causes a person’s pitch to rise sharply for a short period of time.
- The Low-Pitched Crack: This happens when a person’s vocal cords suddenly become looser than usual, resulting in a deeper voice. It is usually caused by fear or anxiety.
- The Shaky Crack: This involves a continuous series of high-pitch and low-pitch fluctuations that can make it hard for the speaker to maintain consistent volume and tone throughout their speech. It is usually caused by extreme stress or frustration.
The good news is: voice cracks are usually temporary and not a sign of any serious medical issue. The best way to prevent them is to take care of your body with plenty of rest and hydration before engaging in lengthy conversations or presentations. Additionally, learning some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and positive self-talk can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing voice cracks due to stress or anxiety.
How is it Treated?
The first step in treating a voice crack is identifying the underlying cause. If it is psychological, then addressing those issues and learning to better manage emotions and become more confident when speaking can be very helpful (e.g. relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, positive self-talk.)
If it is caused by physical reasons, such as a vocal cord strain or injury, then it is important to see your doctor for treatment. Depending on the type of injury, they may recommend vocal exercises and/or medications to help reduce inflammation and pain. Additionally, some doctors may suggest using a humidifier in your home to keep the air moistened and prevent further irritation of the vocal cords.
When to Seek Medical Help
Sometimes, voice cracking can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. If you experience persistent or frequent voice cracking, seek medical advice from your doctor. Other signs that may indicate the need for medical help include hoarseness, difficulty speaking, pain when talking or singing and changes in vocal range or tone.
A doctor will be able to assess your condition and provide the proper diagnosis and treatment plan for your specific case. Your doctor may also refer you to a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) or an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) if the cause of your voice issues requires further examination. Seeking medical help if you experience persistent voice problems is essential in order to ensure that any underlying conditions are identified and treated properly.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Voice
Taking care of your voice is an important part of maintaining vocal health and avoiding issues like cracking. Here are some tips to help keep your voice in good condition:
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps keep your vocal cords lubricated, which can reduce strain and help avoid any cracking in the voice.
- Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol: Both of these can cause dehydration, which can strain the vocal cords if not enough water is consumed afterwards.
- Avoid irritants: Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as other irritants like air pollution, dust, and chemicals.
- Avoid Clearing Your Throat: This can cause irritation of the throat and vocal cords, leading to a strained sound or even cracking when speaking or singing.
- Limit Loud Talking: Yelling or talking too loudly for extended periods of time can damage the vocal cords due to excessive strain from the loud volume.
- Warm up before speaking or singing: Just like athletes warm up before a game, warming up your voice before speaking or singing can help prevent strain and injury.
- Rest your voice: If you have been using your voice excessively, take a break and rest your vocal cords.
- Practice Breathing Exercises: These are effective and simple steps to help reduce or eliminate voice cracks. By focusing on proper breathing, you can strengthen your laryngeal muscles (used for speaking) and improve your vocal technique and overall vocal production. Here are some examples:
- Start by inhaling slowly through your nose and counting to four. Exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to four again. This helps ensure that you’re breathing deeply enough to access all of the air in your lungs and support your vocal cords without straining them.
- Hum a low note or sound while inhaling and then gradually increase the pitch as you exhale. This helps promote proper airflow, which can be beneficial for public speakers or professional singers. This can also help reduce tension in the throat area that often leads to strain in the vocal cords.
Following these tips will help you take better care of your voice so that you don’t experience any unwanted cracking while talking or singing.
In most cases, voice cracking is a normal and temporary occurrence during puberty. However, if you experience persistent voice problems or voice cracking as an adult, it’s best to seek medical advice. Get in touch with us so we can assess your vocal health and provide specialized treatment options tailored to your particular needs.