The vocal cords are some of the most frequently used organs in our bodies, and in many ways, some of the most neglected.

Ahead of World Voice Day on April 8th, Dr. Karen Kost, director of the dysphagia and voice clinics at the MUHC explains how to protect our voices.

“We're born with these two vocal folds… and they basically work for us from birth,” explained Kost, who said if we take our voice for granted, it rebels.

“The moment you open your mouth, people identify you with that sound. And so the moment your voice is off, just a little bit, it's something that people notice,” she said.

Some professions invite overuse: singers, teachers and broadcast journalists, to name a few. 

Coaches who yell a lot can even suffer a sudden vocal fold injury, said Kost.

“Because they have a hard reset to their voice, we call it a hard glottal attack. When they initiate – ‘Go!’ – this kind of thing. This is traumatizing to the vocal chords and they're susceptible to even hemorrhages,” she said.

Some problems can be corrected with surgery, including use of a laser to treat lesions.

The only laser of its kind in Canada, the MUHC’s device allows them to treat patients in the lab instead of under general anesthesia.

A strong voice can be maintained or revived by vocal therapy and best practices.

“They should be drinking a lot of water, not whispering, trying to avoid really screaming or yelling on an ongoing basis,” said Kost.

Also, avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol as well.And rest your voice, when necessary.

On April 8, a seminar at McGill University will showcase the science behind the voice and the artistry. It's open to the public.

“Your voice is an organ. It's a very precious one and you really want to keep it like a finely tuned engine,” said Kost.