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Auctioneers who sell at live auctions must be conscious of caring for their voices. For many, their voice is their “signature” sound and/or their brand.

Almost all states have auctioneer contests where auctioneers complete based upon their bid calling ability; annually the National Auctioneers Association hosts the International Auctioneer Championships where bid calling is judged for awards upwards of $5,000.

So, bid calling is big business, and thus the health of an auctioneer’s voice is big business as well. Here’s what the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health, says about preventing voice problems:

  • Limit your intake of drinks that include alcohol or caffeine. These act as diuretics (substances that increase urination) and cause the body to lose water. This loss of fluids dries out the voice. Alcohol also irritates the mucous membranes that line the throat.
  • Drink plenty of water. Six to eight glasses a day is recommended.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Cancer of the vocal folds is seen most often in individuals who smoke.
  • Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking. It is important to support your voice with deep breaths from the diaphragm, the wall that separates your chest and abdomen. Singers and speakers are often taught exercises that improve this breath control. Talking from the throat, without supporting breath, puts a great strain on the voice.
  • Avoid eating spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus (reflux).
  • Use a humidifier in your home. This is especially important in winter or in dry climates. Thirty percent humidity is recommended.
  • Try not to overuse your voice. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent colds and flu.
  • Include plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C. They also help keep the mucus membranes that line the throat healthy.
  • Do not cradle the phone when talking. Cradling the phone between the head and shoulder for extended periods of time can cause muscle tension in the neck.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise increases stamina and muscle tone. This helps provide good posture and breathing, which are necessary for proper speaking.
  • Get enough rest. Physical fatigue has a negative effect on voice.
  • Avoid talking in noisy places. Trying to talk above noise causes strain on the voice.
  • Avoid mouthwash or gargles that contain alcohol or irritating chemicals. If you still wish to use a mouthwash that contains alcohol, limit your use to oral rinsing. If gargling is necessary, use a salt water solution.
  • Avoid using mouthwash to treat persistent bad breath. Halitosis (bad breath) may be the result of a problem that mouthwash can’t cure, such as low grade infections in the nose, sinuses, tonsils, gums, or lungs, as well as from gastric reflux from the stomach.
  • Consider using a microphone. In relatively static environments such as exhibit areas, classrooms, or exercise rooms, a lightweight microphone and an amplifier-speaker system can be of great help.
  • Consider voice therapy. A speech-language pathologist who is experienced in treating voice problems can provide education on healthy use of the voice and instruction in proper voice techniques.

All these are important points about voice care.

We would amend the next to last note, about using a microphone, to suggest auctioneers should always use a microphone.

Too, we would stress that overall good health is vital for good vocal well being; besides exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep, auctioneers should be very attentive to their general health.

Auctioneers who experience problems with their voices are advised to consult an Otolaryngologist, who is a physician/surgeon who specializes in diseases of the ears, nose, throat, and head and neck.

Auctioneers who take care of themselves, and avoid unnecessary risks to vocal health will be able to work as auctioneers for many years. For more on this subject, we offer a class about Auctioneer Voice Care at The Ohio Auction School.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.