Saints fans who made a din fearful enough to force the Eagles into burned timeouts and false starts Sunday are rightfully getting their due for helping the team to the critical win, but with even more on the line this Sunday, what's a hoarse Who Dat to do?

According to voice experts, the rules are pretty simple: Breathe deep — through the nose is best — before letting loose with an offense-rattling roar. And stay well hydrated — by drinking more water, not more beer.

Alcohol is a diuretic, vocal coach Kristin Samuelson of New York points out. That doesn't mean fans can't enjoy a cold one, but she and others advise alternating a beer with a water.

"The vocal cords are teeny tiny little ligaments that are mostly made of water," according to St. Tammany Parish Hospital speech therapist Kathy Crain. When they've been repeatedly slammed together, they don't want to touch each other. "They're angry and overused," she said.

That inflammation results in hoarseness, which Crain said normally subsides in a day or two — plenty of time for Saints fans to be ready to disrupt the Rams.

Fortunately, the same techniques that make yelling easier on the voice also produce more sound, according to vocal coaches.

Margaret Albert, a Slidell resident who has taught voice for more than 20 years, advises breathing in through the nose to access air from deep within the lungs.

Singers and actors who have vocal training are able to get that deep air with mouth breathing, she said. But an average football fan yelling in a stadium will have more success in getting enough air into their cheering by breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.


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Albert also advises using the "H" sound as a way to boost the flow. "You can put an H before a consonant — no one's going to know but you. HMOVE DEM CHAINS. Or, if you want to be especially kind to your voice, HMOVE HDEM HCHAINS," she said.

"It's only gonna sound weird to you."

The "H" sound encourages what Albert called "aspirate articulation" as opposed to "glottal articulation," which can be harmful.

Fortunately for Saints fans, the cheer of choice already provides the optimum sound. Samuelson, who formerly lived in New Orleans and is still a big Saints fan, loves a good "Hooooo Dat." But she's also partial to "Go, go," because of the oh and ooh sounds.

People think they need to squeeze to make the sound come out, to provide what they perceive as a loud, harsh sound, she said. But Samuelson suggests picturing the back of the mouth as a cathedral or big church or imagining an umbrella popping out of the back of their head to produce a round, full sound.

Or think about a burp, which is letting a big air bubble out. "Belch it out," she said, but keep open and relaxed, which is better for the whole vocal mechanism.

Both Samuelson and Albert are fans of going high, which allows the sound to carry. Male fans can provide the Santa Claus effect, Samuelson said, while female fans can be opera divas.

But Albert says men shouldn't be afraid to go high either, even if they think it sounds too feminine. Higher frequencies travel farther, and as a plus, most people find them annoying. She advises an "eeeee" sound for making an especially irritating noise.

Not everyone shares the two women's enthusiasm for the upper registers, though. Gerard Pena, an ENT physician in Slidell who was at the game Sunday, wasn't hoarse afterward. "I stay low-pitched, and I probably yelled more at this game than at any other game," he said.

Higher sounds do carry farther, he conceded. "That's fine if you're a person in the woods who's lost. But you're one of 70,000. It becomes additive," he said.

That was certainly the case Sunday, when Pena said the Dome was probably the loudest he'd ever heard it.

But there can be consequences to vocal abuse, from laryngitis to vocal nodules or even breaking a blood vessel in the vocal cords, Pena said. He's seen that in his medical practice, but more frequently in cheerleaders yelling at high school games or singers.

"You can yell, but don't scream," he advised.

As for the noise itself, fans probably don't need to worry that they are damaging their hearing.

Jerald James Jr., assistant professor of clinical audiology at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Allied Health Professions, said that hearing damage is caused by intensity and duration — how loud and how long the exposure lasts.

The loudest noise in the Dome is not continuous, he said, usually lasting about 30 seconds or so when the opposing offense is about to run a play.

"In general I'm not concerned about damage at athletic events," he said, although he recommends ear plugs for fans who need relief from the noise.

Pena advises protecting ears of children who go to the game. Adults vary as to their sensitivity to sound. "If you think it's too loud, it's too loud," he said.

Noise has to reach 140 decibels to hit what James called the threshold of pain, although even 120 decibels can be "a little uncomfortable," he said.

But it doesn't have to hurt to be effective.

"Imagine being on the field trying to communicate," James said. "It's very difficult."

And that's why being loud at the game matters, even though that might lead to some quiet fans on Monday morning.

"It's an occupational hazard," Crain said of Saints fans' yelling. "It's their job. Just make sure to do it safely."

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat. 

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