Hearfones; are they beneficial for your vocal technique?
In my view, Hearfones are expensive, fragile and uncomfortable, but they may help you care for and improve your voice. Do I recommend you buy them? Not at their current price. However, what they are designed to do can be easily copied with your hands and the subsequent practice should improve your voice!
Babies love to scream:
If you have been on public transport or have had children, you’ll know one thing – babies love to scream. In fact, all they can mostly do is scream and they scream loud! But have you noticed how a baby can keep screaming for hours upon end, whereas some adults develop a sore throat after only a few minutes of talking?
Despite screaming, a baby never gets a hoarse voice. A baby never tires. A baby continues to call out without restraint. Yet, more than half of my adult clients complain of ending a mere ten-minute zoom call or speech with vocal pain. Why is this? Well the answer is; unlike an adult, a baby hasn’t learned any bad habits. It doesn’t withstrain the diaphragm, nor does it over-project and scream louder then its voice would naturally allow. Instead, the air pushed past its vocal cords is fully utilised, whereas adults often fail to breathe deeply, try to speak too loud or attempt to over-extended a shallow breath.
With many of my students, a quick check has found more half spoke too loud especially over online calls (or had harsh glottal stops). Couple this with a lack of diaphragmatic breathing and you have vocal cords being overworked with little air behind them, causing inflammation and pain.
Although it’s easy to say to someone ‘just speak quieter’ training the subconscious to do so is another matter. Therefore, I’ve been testing out a strange contraption which I hoped may help; Hearfones.
The strange design of Hearfones emphasises the volume, tone and quality of your voice when speaking or singing. They are effective and I can see how they may have some benefit to the working voice actor or singer for practice. Admittedly, upon using them I’ve found they have helped me correct some sibilant issues and identify my own vocal weak spots. However at £70 (including postage and import duty) I feel they are especially expensive and I cannot recommend them to everyday speakers, especially due to their fragility.
If Hearfones are not for me, then what do you recommend?
Although I don’t recommend you place an order for a set of Hearfones if you’re not in the professional voice acting or singing industry, here’s a simple exercise to help monitor the volume of your voice, which should help with preventing any hoarseness. It’s also beneficial in improving your vocal technique:
- First, you want to take your hand and cup it into the top crook of your ear.
- Second, bring your palm down across your face until it’s almost in front of your mouth.
- If you do this with both hands on both ears, you’ll notice your voice gets louder due to the reverberation along your palms and back up to your ears.
- Whilst talking bring your voice down to a comfortable volume. Ideally, this is the volume you should use when speaking to others or presenting online.
Although you may have to raise your voice slightly when speaking in-person, it’s always best to ask for a microphone and ensure you use the diaphragmatic breathing technique and ensure you are well hydrated before your presentation.
There are many more similar thoughts, along with a comprehensive diction improvement guide available in: Speak and Be Heard – 101 Vocal Exercises for Voice Actors, Public Speakers and Professionals. Richard Di Britannia also offers private online voice coaching and consultations on building vocal strength and confidence via his contact form.