The voice is the most essential component of communication, yet many people risk developing voice disorders by not taking proper care of it.

At UT's final weekly Science Forum for the semester, speaker Dr. Sue Hume, a clinical associate professor of audiology and speech pathology, spoke to her audience about vocal health during her lecture, "Good Vibrations — Care and Use of the Professional Voice.

"Although voice disorders occur more frequently in people whose occupations depend on their voices, like singers and teachers, Hume said that everyone needs to take steps to avoid causing damage to their voices.

"It's estimated that about ten percent of the population has a voice disorder," Hume said.

She emphasized that many of these disorders are preventable.

"Just by arming ourselves with some knowledge about how the (voice) mechanism works, and how to take care of it, we can prevent many voice problems."

Hume discussed the various ways in which the average voice mechanisms can be damaged.Though for most people it is not damaging in moderation, Hume notes that excessive yelling and cheering – especially at sports events – can cause damage to the vocal mechanisms. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, dehydration and stress can all contribute to voice disorders as well.

Hume also discussed ways that people can make their voices more effective in conveying our messages."(Our voice) is the mechanism through which we project our emotions and our personalities," she said.

One is often judged based on the way one sounds. One's sex, age, general health, mood and even personality can be determined based on their voice.

Optimal vocal quality is characterized as the right balance of loudness, pitch and a balance between oral and nasal resonance. Learning to control the force of air pressure one uses when speaking is one way Hume points out that one can achieve a better sounding voice.Hume earned a masters degree from Emory University and a Ph.D. in speech and hearing science from UT. She has been working at UT for more than 25 years.

Micah Dreyer, UT band member and undecided freshman, agreed that it is important to take care of one's voice.

"We use them so often that many people take them for granted," Dreyer said. "It was interesting to learn about the consequences of misusing them."

The Science Forum will not be held again until next semester. A new schedule will be released soon.