Media Contact: Ian Demsky

Our voices define our humanity

Join U-M in celebrating World Voice Day, April 16

In recognition of World Voice Day on April 16, Norman D. Hogikyan, M.D., professor of otolaryngology at the University of Michigan Medical School and director of the U-M Vocal Health Center, reminds us not only to think about vocal health, but the ways in which the human voice influences our lives and unites us.

“The human voice links us all together and helps define us as human beings,” Hogikyan says. “The voice communicates so much more than just words.”

Hogikyan offers these points to ponder:

Even in this age of texting, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, the spoken word remains the primary mode of communication worldwide for most people -- true communication and not just dissemination of information or media. Even an individual who frequently uses electronic communication will have had the experience of needing the spoken word to clarify a point or resolve a conflict that developed over a misinterpreted text, e-mail or posting. The mutual understanding that comes through the human voice cannot be duplicated.

While the words to a song may be inspiring or heartfelt, do you really need to understand the language being sung in order to be moved? Is it not the beauty of the human voice itself that stirs us through singing?

Have you ever had the experience of traveling in a country where you did not speak the language and yet somehow seemed to communicate? While waving hands and pointing fingers can certainly help with directions, the shared human voice quickly allows us to discern who is a new friend ready to provide assistance and with whom we can connect vocally.

Sometimes cancer or severe injury can require the complete removal of a person's voice box. These courageous individuals are often still be able to speak after reconstruction and with the will to let their voices be heard. The incredible human voice can even transcend loss of the voice box itself.

What about laughter or crying of young children? Whether they live nearby or on a different continent, the voice of a joyous or distressed child is something that engages our emotions and cannot be ignored.

The voice that we share is what we celebrate on World Voice Day! At this time and throughout the year, the U-M Vocal Health Center encourages you to take care of your voice. A few simple vocal health tips include:

  • Keep yourself well hydrated.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Don’t scream or shout. Use a microphone if you need to project your voice.
  • Rest your voice if you have laryngitis.
  • Get evaluated by an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat physician) if you have persistent hoarseness.

For more information on World Voice Day, visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery website at

Also in tune with World Voice Day, the U-M Department of Speech Language Pathology will present the workshop "The Voice of a New Era: A Fresh Pedagogical Approach in a New Millennium,” April 29 to May 1. The vocal workshop is designed not only for voice teachers, but also for speech language pathologists who work with voice disordered patients.

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