Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Hoarse Whisperer

The claim: Whispering can harm your voice.

The facts: Ever have a bad case of laryngitis?

To protect your voice, you may have felt the urge to whisper. But many otolaryngologists advise against this, warning that whispering actually causes more trauma to the larynx than normal speech.

Singers in need of vocal rest are often given the same advice: Avoid whispering. It will damage your pipes.

However, Dr Robert Sataloff, chairman of the otolaryngology department at Drexel University College of Medicine, said this recommendation was based on “years of pronouncement and almost no research, like so much in medicine.”

So in 2006, Dr Sataloff, who is also a professional opera baritone, sought out an answer in a large study, Laryngeal Hyperfunction During Whispering: Reality or Myth?

With a team of colleagues, he recruited 100 subjects and examined their vocal cords with fibre-optic scopes as they counted from one to 10, first in a normal voice, then in a whisper.

Dr Adam Rubin, a co-author, said that in 69 of the subjects, whispering put more strain on the vocal cords.

“They were squeezing their vocal cords together more tightly to produce the whisper, which is more traumatic,” said Dr Rubin, director of the Lakeshore Professional Voice Centre in Michigan. Eighteen subjects showed no change. In 13, whispering was easier on the vocal cords.

For people concerned about their voices, Dr. Sataloff recommends that they avoid whispering and simply talk softly - in “the voice you would use if you wanted to talk to somebody next to you without having other people in the room hear.”

The bottom line: For some people, whispering can cause more trauma to the larynx than normal speech.

- The New York Times 

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