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Vocal Health: The Dangers of Whispering For Your Voice

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

July 2, 2009

Comments (10)

Woman whispering into a man's earWhispering may seem like a good way to conserve your voice, but in reality, it can be very taxing!

There are many myths out there about what does and does not hurt your voice. What happens if you whisper too much? Whispering, although many people tend to think it is harmless, does affect the voice in a negative way.

Find out what whispering does to your voice and how you can take care here at VOX Daily.

Whispering Kills Resonance?

I was reading up on an article on the Voice Academy microsite, hosted on the University of Iowa website, that covered vocal fatigue (quite a worthwhile read) and was happy to see a little bit about the affects of whispering on the voice.

The article related, that whispering is essentially talking without vibration of the vocal folds, and if the vocal muscles are fatigued, whispering won't allow them to rest. Also, whispering may have a dehydrating effect.

Just think about it:

Whispering is essentially talking without vibration of the vocal folds... if you don't allow your vocal folds to vibrate, you're constricting your vocal folds and are also not getting any beautiful or resonant sound out of your voice!

If your vocal folds are pulled tight, unable to rub together and remain moist as nature intended, it would make sense that a drying affect might occur.

Another thought just occurred to me as to why some people may think that whispering actually helps lessen strain on the voice.

When you are whispering, the audible volume of your voice is greatly diminished, giving the impression that the voice is not being used as vigorously or strenuously because it is quieter. While it may not be a loud yell or bloodcurdling scream, something that we know (commonsense) immediately abuses the voice, whispering silently stifles the voice unwittingly over time and may contribute to vocal fatigue among other things.

When I published an article about vocal rest several days ago, a comment came in from Priscilla Hamilton, sharing that whispering can be even more of a strain on the vocal folds than speaking. She also suggested that there is a misconception that it is OK to whisper while on vocal rest.

Even though some people may see whispering as a means to speak while on vocal rest, it might be better to just write down what you're trying to say on a notepad instead of straining the vocal folds during a period of rest or recovery.

In the same vein, if you are stuck in bed and also on vocal rest, ringing a bell, clapping your hands, or knocking on the headboard of your bed to get the attention of someone who may be caring for you is another way to prevent having to pipe up unnecessarily when your pipes are out of order.

What have your experiences been with whispering? Do you purposely avoid it?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/David Gilder

Related Topics: University of Iowa, vocal health, voice, voice care, whisper, whispering, whispers


Comments


    Spot on! I remember having an experience sometime ago where I had this commercial I was to voice for but, had somehow lost my voice. I was racing against time and was frantically doing all I could to remedy the situation. I resorted to whispering and I just noticed my voice got worse, so I read up and saw just what you've highlighted in this post. Knowledge is indeed power, to think I'd been whispering when I lost my voice for ages, not knowing I was making it worse is really a wake up call. Voice actors and other voice professionals need to be on the top of their craft. Thanks

    Posted by:

      Really good article, Stephanie.

      By finding out the hard way, I have been aware of the "damage of whispering" for years. Whispering exhausts the voice and pushes it almost to a state of laryngitis.

      I also want to point out that pushing your voice out of your range will do the exact same thing. For example, if you are a woman with a naturally high register, and you try to sound "deep and sultry" (which is almost a type of whispering), it will tax your chords beyond their limits, and you'll be out of commission for days!

      As far as screaming: It can be done. As a stage actress, I have been called upon to scream repeatedly for dozens of performances in a row for weeks on end. In order to save the voice, it can be done almost effortlessly by using the back of the throat and soft palate, and forcefully expelling air from the diaphragm. I have done this for years with no damage to my pipes. (This technique also comes in handy as a parent. As a mother of three boys, I have certainly done my share of yelling!) :o)

      Posted by:
      • Cira Larkin
      • July 3, 2009 1:42 PM

        I am really enjoying this series that you are doing about vocal behaviors such as voice rest and whispering. Some experts indicate that all whispers are not the same. If you whisper a message into someone's ear it is not the same as a stage whisper, in which you are trying to project a whispered voice. The latter involves significant vocal effort in order to be heard, which is deleterious to healthy voice production. The former use of whispering may not have a negative impact on the voice unless used consistently for extended periods of time.

        When a person whispers, because their vocal folds are open and air is flowing through without the normal restriction of air flow that occurs during normal voicing, phrases tend to be short and speakers need to inhale and exhale more often in order to replenish the air supply. The increased frequency of inhaling and exhaling may also strain the vocal mechanism when a person whispers for an extended period of time.

        Bonnie Engel Lee, Ph.D.
        Speech/Language Pathologist

        Posted by:
        • Bonnie Engel Lee
        • July 3, 2009 3:30 PM

          Hi Bonnie,

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It's nice to have a Speech / Language Pathologist chiming in. Yes, you are correct to say that stage whispering is much different from regular whispering. It's interesting to think about. At the end of the day, it would appear that whispering is still a culprit, regardless of its classification!

          Thank you again for joining the conversation :)

          Best wishes,

          Stephanie

          Posted by:

            i appreciate Bonnie's informed comment, and was interesting. the classification helps for deeper understanding as the blog piece mentioned nothing about stage whispering.

            Posted by:

              Thank you for this series of helpful articles and information about things to be aware of in order to preserve and even strengthen your voice. Being somewhat new to the voice-over industry, such tidbits are welcome pieces of information to help me ensure that I am doing all I can to take care of my voice!

              Posted by:
              • Michael L Gregorash
              • June 12, 2010 12:52 PM

                I'm a singer but have been whistling since as long as I can remember. Is it true that whistling hurts the voice? I'm familiar with whispering.

                Posted by:
                • Edward Watkins
                • August 3, 2011 4:20 PM

                  really very good article.I experianced it myself personally. I whisperd a lot and suffered from vocal cord nodule,which turned malignant in 2 -3years .

                  Posted by:
                  • manju
                  • September 12, 2011 1:01 AM

                    Define whispering. If whispering is forcing air out of your mouth harshly while remaining quiet, sure that would bad bad. But that's barely whispering isn't it. Only people in movies whisper like that. I whisper but moving my lips and breathing out normally. Easily audible in a quiet room, and is no more strain that breathing through your mouth. I think you're all whispering wrong...

                    Posted by:
                    • Daniel
                    • March 31, 2013 1:06 PM

                      My voice has been like a whisper for over 10 years. I have been to various ENT'S, but no one really knows what is going on. All my tests come back normal. I did have a bioplastique (piece put by left vocal chord), which did give me a voice, but did not last. my voice went back to a whisper. I do not know what to do. Please note... e mails are only stored for 4 hours then deleted automaticly.

                      Posted by:
                      • Ron
                      • October 14, 2013 6:51 PM

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