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When to Steam and When to Nebulise!

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Steaming - Inhaling hot steam and Nebulising - inhaling vapourised cool air (saline 0.9%) have different affects on our voice and there are more appropriate times for each one.

If staying hydrated is your main goal, do not think that you can replace your hydration by inhaling steam, drinking good old H2O is still the best way to hydrate your vocal cords.

NEBULISING

  • Decreases PTP Phonation Threshold Pressure (this is the pressure it takes to set our vocal folds into motion) Higher PTP = more effort needed to set VF’s into motion. Lower PTP = less effort needed to set VF’s into motion.

  • Before singing (especially if the voice is feeling sluggish)

  • During vocal exercises / practicing high effort tasks like belting

  • During tasks where you need to reduce ‘effort’ in mix or twang

  • Before a performance, rehearsal or practice session.

However, there are risks with NEBS: The vapour is broken down into very small particles which you can inhale into your lungs. Therefore, it is important that you clean your nebuliser after every use and use 0.9% saline solution, NOT tap water. This is to minimise risk of a lung infection. (PS: you can get much cheaper hand held nebulisers on Amazon)


STEAMING:

  • Increases vocal Flexibility

  • At the moment we think it is better for hoarseness and rough voice qualities.

  • It adds moisture to the whole vocal tract

  • It can reduce and thin out mucus

  • The warmth of the steam can reduce tension in the vocal tract

  • No risks of lung infections.

When do I steam:

After a long day of voice use.

After singing or a performance as part of your warm down

If you hear any roughness, hoarseness or feel tension in your throat.

If you have mucus


So in short:

STEAM: Increase Surface Hydration - Reduce tension - Improve voice quality ie: decrease roughness.


NEBULISE: Increase surface hydration - Reduce vocal effort - ?Use on inflamed vocal folds to decrease swelling.


As always, any questions, get in touch! References below if you want to read more!


Lucy D


References:


Alves, M., Krueger, E., Pillay, B., Van Lierde, K. and Van der Linde, J., 2019. The effect of hydration on voice quality in adults: a systematic review. Journal of Voice, 33(1), pp.125-e13.


Alves, M., Krueger, E., Pillay, B., Van Lierde, K. and Van der Linde, J., 2019. The effect of hydration on voice quality in adults: a systematic review. Journal of Voice, 33(1), pp.125-e13.


Mahalingam, S. and Boominathan, P., 2016. Effects of steam inhalation on voice quality‐related acoustic measures. The Laryngoscope, 126(10), pp.2305-2309.

Pritchard, J.N., Hatley, R.H., Denyer, J. and Hollen, D.V., 2018. Mesh nebulizers have become the first choice for new nebulized pharmaceutical drug developments. Therapeutic Delivery, 9(2), pp.121-136.


Keltz, A. and McHenry, M., 2022. Steam and/or semi-occluded vocal tract exercise as morning vocal warm-up strategy. Journal of Voice, 36(5), pp.734-e7.


Vermeulen, R., van der Linde, J., Abdoola, S., Van Lierde, K. and Graham, M.A., 2021. The Effect of superficial hydration, with or without systemic hydration, on voice quality in future female professional singers. Journal of Voice, 35(5), pp.728-738.


Gerosa, M., 2022. The effects of vocal loading and steam inhalation on acoustic, aerodynamic and self-perceived voice measures in adults (Doctoral dissertation, Trinity College Dublin. School of Linguistic Speech & Comm Sci. Discipline of Clin Speech & Language Studies).

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