Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
I am getting over a bout of laryngitis. Complete laryngitis. I had no voice at all for four days, and after ten days it’s still a bit dodgy. If you speak for a living, as I do, this is very disabling. Silently panicking about whether I should cancel my commitments I put some time into speaking to experts (well – emailing them) and researching the best way of getting it to come back.
Colds, coughs and laryngitis are common at this time of year. If you rely heavily on your voice— teaching, talking to clients, singing—even a few days of hoarseness is a professional problem.
The main message from experts is to just KEEP QUIET. Rest those vocal folds and give the inflammation time to go away.
Go easy the minute you feel the scratchies coming on. Pushing through with talking or singing can make it worse, and it will take much longer to go away. Resist the urge to whisper. Just shut up.
After that, keep your throat moist. Hydration hydration hydration – there is nothing better. Drink a big tall glass of H2O every hour. It takes a couple of days to really kick in, and yes – you will pee a lot more then usual, but keep it up.
Submit yourself to the wonders of steam. It relaxes inflamed vocal folds and soothes and loosens everything up. You need a cup of boiling water and a towel over your head. Do it often. No need to menthylate or add anything to the brew – it only dries you out.
Gargle with soluble aspirin in very warm water, and alternate doses with ibruprofen to reduce inflammation. Check with your own doctor, but this regimen was suggested to me by one. In the four hours between doses, keep sipping and gargling with hot water with a squeeze of lemon in it.
Honey turns out to be one of those Grandma cures that really does help. A big gloopy spoonful brings silky smooth comfort.
A cough suppressant works to reduce the aggravation caused by explosive coughing and clearing your throat. You can also have a hot whisky toddy before bed, for a good night’s sleep. Hot water, whisky, lemon and honey.
Think twice about taking pseudoephedrine (or similar). It dehydrates all mucous membranes and will make things worse. The vocal folds need to be soft and pliable to vibrate, not dried out and stiff. It may be a tough call: clear your nose and lose your voice, or retain some voice and also a runny nose. The choice is yours.
Your voice is susceptible to changes in atmosphere. Keep your throat warm with a scarf, and counteract the drying effects of air conditioning and heating by wearing a rollneck sweater and pulling it up over your nose, Lone Ranger style. Your recycled breath will be moister than the surrounding air. This is a really handy trick if you have to make a plane trip and you want to bypass the dehydrating effects of the cabin air con. (You can put a hoodie on backwards and pull it over your face if that’s more your style.)
Stay away from the pub, the club or the football. Anywhere that is crowded and noisy will tempt you to speak up or yell – don’t.
When your voice returns treat it gently. Warm it up before you get to work. A low volume ‘ng’ sound up and down through your range is an excellent way to start. Practice vowel exercises that throw your voice forward into the mask of your face and off your throat (see some exercises here). Don’t yell or shout or do anything that is going to cause tension. And be patient, it takes a while to go back to normal.