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Video: Protect your vocal chords

If you're like most Americans, you talk - a lot. If you're a doctor, lawyer, teacher or performer, you probably never give your voice a rest. All that chattering can mean problems for your vocal cords, but there are steps you can take to save your voice.

Janette Deschamps jumps, twists and sings four times a week at her church. But a few months ago, she lost her voice.

"Notes that I could sing, I couldn't sing anymore, so I started wondering, what is going on?" she said.

Deschamps had blisters on her vocal cords. She was over-using her voice, something more and more of us are doing.

"We're very demanding on our voices. We have a tendency to work hard. We have a tendency to play hard," said Dr. Jeffrey Leghman, otolaryngologist.

And it's not just performers. Anyone who talks a lot is at risk. When you speak incorrectly, your vocal cords collide and swell. And smokers are also at risk.

To prevent problems: don't smoke; drink enough water - about eight glasses a day; avoid caffeine; alcohol and spicy foods; use e-mail or texting when you can; take a deep breath before you speak; don't talk too loudly, but don't whisper either.

"A strained whisper like this actually causes more friction on the vocal folds," said Bari Hoffman-Ruddy, PhD, University of Central Florida.

Deschamp is learning new ways to breathe when she sings. She hopes they will help her keep her most prized gift: her voice.

Experts say if your have hoarseness or discomfort, you should first try to rest your voice for about a week. If symptoms persist, see a doctor.

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