Center for Voice & Swallowing
Patient Information – Frequently Asked Questions
What is Otolaryngology?
The Department of Otolaryngology at Boston Medical Center provides care for patients with problems involving the ears, sinuses, oral cavity, nose, throat, neck (ENT) including sinus conditions, allergy, sleep disorders and snoring. We also specialize in swallowing disorders or dysphagia, voice problems, dizziness and balance disorders, and hearing loss, cancers of the head and neck and our division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery offers cosmetic surgery and management of facial deformities and facial fractures.
How can I maintain a healthy voice?
- Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily to keep your body well hydrated. Your vocal cords vibrate very fast and having a proper water balance helps keep them lubricated. Limit caffeinated beverages to two per day because these will dehydrate you.
- Don't smoke, or if you do, quit. Smoking raises the risk of throat cancer and inhaling smoke irritates the vocal cords.
- Avoid yelling or screaming habitually and try not to compete with background noise at bars, sporting events, parties, etc. If your throat feels dry or tired, or your voice is getting hoarse, stop talking. If your occupation requires you to speak above a loud ambient noise, consider using amplification such as a microphone.
- Avoid frequent throat clearing. Doing it too much can injure your vocal cords and make you hoarse. Take a sip of water or swallow. If you feel like you have to clear your throat a lot, get checked by a doctor for reflux disease or allergy and sinus conditions.
What does a voice screening entail?
A BMC specialist will sit down with you to review your voice history to identify any potential problems. Your larynx will then be viewed with a small endoscope (camera) that is passed (painlessly) through the nose. This is an optional part of the screening but the best way to observe the vocal cords. A DVD of an image of your larynx will be available by request.