How to cure a hoarse voice

Here’s the situation:

I’m narrating an online course. I’m leaving town tomorrow, so I need to finish narrating before I leave. I thought I’d be able to get through it yesterday, but after narrating for nearly ten hours, I realized I had over-used my voice and was damaging it so I stopped.

Six hours later I felt like I had strep throat. I woke up this morning hoping for an amazing recovery. I was not satisfied. I still have several more hours of narrating to do and I can barely talk.
Say hello to the internet! Someone has got to know how to cure a hoarse or lost voice, right?
WRONG. SO, SO WRONG. I was horrified by the answers people were giving to “fix” this problem!

just whisper!

cough drops!

ice cream!

No, you guys. Oh my god, I can’t believe people actually think this is the answer.

I think I need to admit this to myself now so I can teach you all a lesson: there isn’t a whole lot you can do to cure a hoarse voice besides wait. There isn’t an easy fix. I know I wish there were, but think about it: when you cut your finger, there isn’t fairygodmothersome magic serum Madam Pomfrey gives you to make it heal in three seconds. Sure there are things you can do to help the healing along, but chiefly, you gotta wait!

Let me tell you why these “fixes” don’t work:

Cough drops:

This reminds me of a commercial I saw the other day. The target audience was people who own elderly pets. The pets slowly stop being able to have fun like when they were young pups because of joint pain and whatnot. Product to the rescue! The commercial was selling a medicine that would make the pain go away! Oooohhh, the pet owners were so happy! Rover loves running in the park again!

Never once did they mention anything about making the problem go away. Just the pain.

Pain, though painful, is actually a very helpful tool. It is your brain’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m hurt. Please stop doing that and I’ll feel better. Take it easy.” Now that the dog’s brain isn’t receiving that message, Rover is going to be doing the same damage as before, but ten-fold because he has no idea it’s hurting him. The product it actually just going to make the situation worse.

Now apply this to cough drops. Cough drops these days are created to numb your throat, relieve the pain. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to speak anymore, but that doesn’t mean you’re cured. When you were in pain, at least the pain was reminding you to rest your voice. I know we’re taught not to listen to our bodies these days, but trust me: they’re right.

Now think about this name: cough drops.

Rule to remember: only take cough drops when you’ve got a cough.

Whispering:

Whispering is actually quite harmful to your voice (regardless of if you’re sick or hoarse or healthy). It sends copious amounts of air across your vocal folds and dries them out. It also puts a lot of stress on them. When your voice is hoarse, stay on-voice, but speak quietly. There’s a difference between whispering and speaking quietly.

Ice cream:

I have nothing against ice cream. But this is the same principal as cough drops: numbing so you can pretend the problem is gone. No one likes to be in pain–if you want to eat ice cream and cough drops, that’s totally fine! Just as long as you’re aware it doesn’t entitle you to speak.

As a general statement, anything you try with your voice that makes you cough afterward is not helping.

Now, here’s something that actually might help you:

Humming. Yes, humming. A gentle hum can actually do wonders for the voice. Just don’t hum all day.

And I’ve heard good things about gargling warm salt water a couple times a day (just don’t swallow!).

Also, inhale steam a couple times a day. Two sessions of five minutes is better than one session of ten. You can do this over a boiling pot on the stove or buy a steam machine–Vick’s makes them, and they aren’t too expensive.

This is why people drink tea (though they don’t realize this is the reason): the actual tea–the honey, the lemon, all that stuff people tell you is good for your voice–doesn’t do a whole lot. It’s really the steam you’re inhaling from the tea. Let me explain something: when you swallow, your vocal folds are moved out of the way. Nothing you eat or drink is going to make contact with your vocal folds. The only way to get to them directly is by inhaling. This is why smokers have those gritty voices; smoking is all an act of inhaling, so all the gross stuff in the smoke is passing over their vocal cords. When you inhale steam, the water plumps up your vocal cords!

I’m gonna be real though. In the end, the best thing you can do–the quickest fix you can get–is rest your voice. If you want to see results fast, you have got to commit to not talking. Also, I know this seems like one of those catch-alls like drink lots of water–which, by the way you should do (and notice I didn’t say “fluids”, I mean water)–get lots of sleep. Sleep does wonders for vocal cords.

One last thing: clearing your throat. Not good! It is not a pretty sound. You know why? You’re grinding your vocal cords together. That doesn’t sound very good for them, does it? Our brain prompts us to clear our throats when mucus is getting too close to our vocal cords, so this might be something you’ll be doing a lot because, even if you’re not sick, our body’s natural response to all this damage is mucus. Drinking a lot of water will help to thin out the mucus, but if you must do something about it, try doing a “young lady cough”. No voice is involved in this one, just a short puff of air. It sounds a little like “eh eh eh eh”. These little puffs of air hopefully will be enough to dislodge all that yummy stuff in your throat.

Well, I hope this was beneficial! If you don’t need the advice now, maybe it’ll help in the future!

Stay healthy!

4/24/2013 Update: Thanks so much, everyone for your feedback. I look forward to providing more tips in the future. I recently lost my voice, and would like to share my experience and what I learned from it HERE! Includes helpful sound clips.

Tracks!

I’m a little apprehensive about posting this because this will be the first major intersection of two of my lives. This isn’t even a big event, but it feels like it. People who watch me on YouTube (or “watched”, since I don’t ever get around to posting anymore) have never actually seen me act. They haven’t seen me onstage. As I spoke about in a recent entry, all of my different lives are beginning to converge in one place; it’s impossible to keep them separate. Where I was once able to keep a partition around my personal life (e.g., facebook), my family (email and a blog), my internet life (e.g., YouTube and this blog), and my professional life (pretty much anything non-internet), the Venn diagram that represented all that has become a single circle. On facebook, I’m now friends with my mom, my mentor, potential employers, YouTube people I don’t really know…

All I’m trying to say is that I went to Detroit last weekend for a voice-over workshop on accents and dialects, and this is what came out of it:

‘Bye, Y’all! – Southern accent sketch: Hobart “Bob” Reynolds, Mary Kay Florek, Morgan Bailey

Our instructor! Look him up! Chances are, you've heard him hundreds of times
Our instructor, Pat Fraley! Look him up! Chances are, you've heard him hundreds of times

New Yorkers – New York accent sketch: Jody Zink, Michelle Falzon, Morgan Bailey

That's Mark Boyd on my right, then Mary Kay Florek, then Michelle Falzon
That's Mark Boyd on my right, then Mary Kay Florek, then Michelle Falzon

Medic! – English accent sketch: Jody Zink, Kevin Scollin, Morgan Bailey

Recording Russian Ebonics
Recording Russian Ebonics

Russian Ebonics Class – Mark Boyd, Matt Adams, Morgan Bailey (this one’s my favorite)

Group Shot

This is my life now. Welcome to it.

Nice

I am very aware that I am often far too nice to people. I give people presents and make things for people who aren’t even really my friends, just because. I wonder why more people don’t do that stuff; it seems unbalanced to me.

But I think the scale has finally started to tip the other way with the introduction of a certain wonderful man into my life. I feel incredibly unworthy of all the things he has done for me, and all the things I am sure he will do for me in the future. When I sit down and think about it, though, I think it’s just the universe’s way of restoring balance.

Thank you.

The Battle of Internet Personas

Has anyone else started having this problem?

As I start to move into my career, one where a lot of networking, self-advertisement, and communication happens online, I have gotten flustered more than once about how I am to present myself to the world. More than once, I have considered getting another facebook page or twitter account for my professional life so that keeping them separate won’t be as hard. I keep forgetting that I’m friends with family members and important people in my career when I’m on facebook. I don’t think I have embarrassed or undermined myself just yet, but I am dreading the day when I will. Also, I’ve been deleting things off the internet like crazy, but I’m worried that someone is going to read something or see something and think… something. I can’t say I have too many skeletons in the closet, so I probably shouldn’t worry, but I’m afraid that with just one misstep…

I think keeping my two lives separate would be not only a hassle, but also futile.

I’m cutting it here, but I’d like to hear if you all have had similar problems and frustrations.

duel

*EDIT* For instance: to delete all my tweets, or not delete all my tweets. THOUGHTS???

Five Months

thriller

I still have five months of 2009 left, and yet it feels like the year is already slowly coming to a close. I realized that I have five months only to accomplish my resolution of learning the Thriller dance this year. How appropriate it was that I made that resolution this year. I will now not only be learning it for my own pleasure and party-trickery, but also to honor Michael Jackson. I think it’s safe to say that a video will be made in memoriam for all of you to enjoy.

After having this realization, I thought it would be a good idea to check up on my other resolutions. As a side note, I am so glad I officially made these resolutions this year. I haven’t, that I recall, ever made resolutions that I remembered months later.

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Resolution 1: Stop buying things.

Success rate: 15 %. I have certainly been a lot more conscious of money, and I’ve been doing more on the opposite side of this: making money. But I don’t think my spending habits have really changed that much, so I’d say 15% is even a little generous. I’d say I’m at fault here because this resolution is far too general. How do I know when I’ve succeeded?

Resolution 2: Keep a list of all the books I read and all the movies I see.

Uh oh. Success rate: 1%. I really have been trying to do this for several years. I generally have 100% success for the first month, maybe, and then I completely forget. Also, with books, it’s hard because I want to write them down as soon as I start reading them, but then I’m not sure if I’ll finish them so I don’t, and then I completely forget about the whole fandango, period.

Resolution 3: Learn the Thriller dance.

See first paragraph above.

Resolution 4: Start Christmas preparations in November.

Success rate is unknown, as it is not yet November. I will give myself some points, though, because, for the first time on record, I thought about Christmas well in advance. Today, in fact (and before I reviewed these!). So good for me.

Resolution 5: No eating after 9.

I’d say 80% success. I have not been a stickler about it, but I have really stuck to it. You know, I actually forgot this was a resolution, which I’d say is a good sign; it has become part of my lifestyle. And I will have you know I did not eat once after 9 until February or March, which I find bloody impressive.

Resolution 6: Be more active.

Ooh, that is a really hard one to judge. I’d say 100%, which isn’t hard. If I am even a smidgen more active than I was, I would be successful based on the wording here. Also, it’s summer, which is cheating a little. However, I have been playing tennis once a week, and I’ve been doing other nonsense like frisbee and frisbee golf, and generally just running around like a ninny, which is quite a strong point for me. I’d say this is all good news for the activity department.

Resolution 7: Lose weight.

Technically, I should get 100% because I have lost weight several times this year. 8 pounds was my record. My resolution, however, said nothing about keeping it off, though I (obviously) know what I meant. So I’d give myself a 0. At least it’s not a negative 100! I didn’t gain weight! And I have made a hell of a lot of progress in the self-acceptance department.

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If anyone reading this is considering making some resolutions for 2010, my advice to you, and to myself, is to be specific. Really think about what exactly you want to see happen. Then think about how. I’d say my biggest shortcoming with these resolutions was a lack of foresight. What exactly is being “more active”? How much weight do I want to lose? How will I know when I succeed? I think we all know the joy of checking items off a to-do list. But if I don’t know when I’m done, I don’t get the satisfaction of making the check.

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As a side note about Resolutions:

My friend and I used to keep a notebook that we would write letters to each other in and hand back and forth. I remember she wrote me once toward the end of February and asked what my goals (or she might have even used the word, “resolutions”) for March were. That sparked a huge conversation in my head. Why is it that people feel they only have to set goals for themselves once a year? Aren’t we letting ourselves off pretty easy?

So I say: screw New Years resolutions. Why not biannual resolutions? Seasonal resolutions? Monthly resolutions? Even weekly. Not only are we taking more initiative with our lives and saying we are capable of achieving more than a few resolutions we make December 31, but we are also probably going to have a much higher success rate! When I got back from winter break, my school’s gym was absolutely packed with twenty-somethings, who had all obviously made resolutions related to fitness or weight. But a month later? Back to normal. None of us can function under the weight of a year-long goal. It is far too big for us to be able to envision. So why not break it up into smaller chunks?

So what are your goals for tomorrow? This week? August? It’s a new month! Clean slate!