How to avoid voice problems
Jeff Stokes tried to ignore the symptoms: fatigue, hoarseness and the gravelly cough.
But after a particularly grueling stretch of auctions, Stokes knew something was wrong. A doctor confirmed Stokes had a nodule on his throat and needed surgery to remove it. That meant Stokes would have to go without the one thing an Auctioneer needs most — his voice.
“This was my body’s way of saying, ‘You’re killing me,’ ” says Stokes of Stokes Auction Group Inc., Edgewood, Wash. “My voice was the most important part of my body, and I had to have surgery on it.”
Voice health is crucial to an Auctioneer’s livelihood, yet Auctioneers say the subject gets little attention, typically going unnoticed until a problem arises. Exhaustion and fatigue, a bad diet and poor speaking technique can contribute to strain, Auctioneers say, leading to nodules, polyps and pre-cancerous lumps on the vocal cords.
Prevention, they say, is critical.
“Drinking water is the most important thing I tell everyone,” says Wallace Stadtfeld, author of Going Bananas, a Comprehensive Study of the Auctioneer’s Voice. “Water lubricates the throat.”
Stadtfeld, who has taught at the Western College of Auctioneering in Montana, suggests Auctioneers periodically have their voices evaluated by a team of trained professionals. In addition, he encourages Auctioneers take voice lessons and rotate every 30 minutes during an event to rest their vocal cords.
“Long distance runners know they have to pace themselves,” Stadtfeld says. “Auctioneers need to learn to do the same thing.”
Stokes learned that lesson, but only after undergoing surgery to remove the nodule. While working with a voice therapist after surgery, he discovered he was damaging his vocal cords when he grew exhausted during long auctions.